Why I Had A Medichecks Blood Test (And What I Discovered)

July 6, 2018

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know I’ve done a few years competitive bodybuilding. In fact, I “prepped” (trained and dieted for) competitive bodybuilding shows in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016, doing several shows a year.

That’s a lot for the human body to take.

Two years on from my last comp, and I still sometimes feel a bit tired. I have no idea if all the dieting has left me with any wonkiness as regards hormones, digestion, or nutrient levels.

I haven’t dieted for ages, but I know it can take a long time for things to return to normal. Especially when you’re a 40+ drug-free female. If I tell you that I used to have just one period a year (in my competing years), you’ll get an idea of what the body goes through.

All this is to say that I’ve been idly curious about how my body is doing, now I’m settling into a post-competitive-bodybuilding phase of life. Not curious enough to go to the GP or anything. But when my friends at Medichecks had an offer on their Well Woman Ultravit test, I decided to go for it.

The Medichecks Well Woman Ultravit test looks at health markers for red and white blood cells, liver health, kidney function, bone health, gout, iron status, and diabetes, measures of iron storage, thyroid function and key vitamins and hormones. Also ferritin, vitamin B12, folate, vitamin D, thyroid function and magnesium, female hormones FSH, LH and oestradiol, menopause and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Things I Was Worried/Curious/Catastrophising About

  • tiredness. I’m sometimes so tired, and there doesn’t seem to be a pattern to it. But then again, I stay up far too late watching Netflix, I scroll Facebook on my phone in bed, and generally do all those things I tell other people to do when I write content for clients.
  • gout (bloody gout!) I’ve had a painful big toe for about 2 years. I just can’t work out what’s wrong with it. I went to the GP when it was really bad, and he told me it was “probably gout” – which made me feel like Henry VIII or something. I don’t think it’s gout, but the GP said it “probably” was so… y’know.
  • menopause. For a few months, I convinced myself I was in the early stages of menopause. This was based on the sum total of zero. But I’m 40, and I know the pre-menopause “things starting to wind down” phase can start up to 10 years before menopause. So, anyway, I was curious about that.
  • general hormone levels. I’ve always assumed my hormone levels are bomb-diggity, because I seem to be able to put on muscle easily, and my hair grows fast, stuff like that. But it would be interesting to know for sure.
  • nutrient deficiencies. I haven’t dieted in any way since I last prepped for a show, and I eat a pretty varied diet. But there’s always a chance I’m missing something, or that my years of harsh bodybuilding dieting is still affecting me.
  • I am a generally nosy/curious person.

How It Works

The test I had needed a venous blood sample (blood drawn by a medical professional). Some you can do yourself with a fingertip pinprick test at home. All I had to do was go along to one of the partner clinics (a local hospital in my case), wait for a bit, get the nurse to take my blood, and pop the test in the post. The actual blood part took about 2 minutes. It didn’t hurt. I felt absolutely fine after.

The Results

Medichecks get your results to you very quickly – I think it was 24 or 48 hours after I posted the test. It’s all confidential and done online so you can log in and view all the results. They give recommendations and explain all the results clearly.

You get a comprehensive PDF, but there’s no point me putting screenshots here as it’s all very detailed and medical!

Fortunately, there’s nothing wrong with me at all. No gout. No menopause. No wonky hormones or gaping holes in my nutrition. Just low iron (as explained below).

Unfortunately, this means I have no excuse for my “tiredness” other than watching Netflix too late into the night. (But the new season of GLOW has just started!)

Expert Comment

My friend and yours, all-round legend Dr Emil “Goliath” Hodzovic actually works for Medichecks. Emil is a medical Doctor (BSc Sports & Exercise Science, MBBCh Medicine & ISSN Applied Nutrition Student if you please) and a coach. He didn’t do my test, but I asked him to comment on the results from the point of view of someone who trains, has competed, and also knows the medical side of things.

Over to Emil:

Your creatinine is raised and actually a little high. This could easily be through muscle mass, having done a big workout, or dehydration (or use of creatine). But it is probably worth confirming that is usually normal for you. (FYI – eGFR above 60 is acceptable).

eGFR looks at the rate of filtration in the kidneys and uses creatinine as a marker. The factors above cause increased production rather than decreased kidney function but below a certain level, it’s worth making sure there is nothing else going on.

Your aspartate transferase is up a bit. This is entirely unsurprising in someone who exercises. Likewise with CK – creatine kinase.

Your transferrin is low and, actually, your ferritin is at the lower end of normal. This is definitely worth addressing via dietary changes and/or iron supplements. You are not anaemic yet (your Hb is normal) but I imagine if you continued it would likely go that way.

Your HDL and cholesterol ratio (Total Chol to HDL) are both great, reflecting both good genetics, exercise, and likely a good lifestyle.

Your magnesium levels are great, which suggests you are getting some from your diet as people who train hard can be deficient

Your thyroid hormones, thyroid stimulating hormone, and sex hormones are great.

Your Vit b12 is a bit raised. But this isn’t surprising as many supplements and energy drinks contain it, plus you are not vegan any more (!) so you’re getting plenty from diet too

And your Vitamin D is also great. This is another area where people can easily be deficient.

Your levels suggest possible supplementation (or just a lot of sunshine and being outdoors with all your dog walking!)

Thanks Emil. Not much for me to do really – except pay attention to my iron levels. I am terrible with supplements, by which I mean I just don’t remember to take them. I go in fits and starts with creatine, and I remember to take a multivit maybe 4 days out of the month. So I’ll take my multivit (which has iron in) every day. I know iron deficiency can make you feel tired, so perhaps this will address that issue. Or maybe I need to go to bed earlier and not take my phone into the bedroom… !

Everyday Health Is More Important Than #Beastmode

It’s good to know that simple everyday habits (like spending time outside every day, walking a lot, low stress levels, having a healthy and varied diet, and training) do pay off.

It’s worth noting I am definitely not a “fitspo” type person these days! I tran in the gym 2-3 times per week. I do yoga. I walk a lot. I don’t count macros or calories. I drink a lot of water. My point here is that I don’t think you have to be an uber hardcore fitness junkie to be healthy. Simple daily habits, done consistently, as part of a happy lifestyle, are the important thing.

Have you had a Medichecks test? Thinking about it? Feel free to comment – if I can’t answer your question, I’m sure Emil would pop back on with his expert hat on.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist with 14 years experience in writing content and direct response copy for the fitness industry. Get in touch via Facebook, by sending a message here.

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Hotpod Yoga FAQs: What You Need To Know Before You Go

June 6, 2018

If you read this post, you’ll know how much I’m currently loving hot yoga. (And if you know me IRL,  you’re probably sick of me banging on about it whilst standing on one leg bellowing “look! I can do this pose now!”)

The type of hot yoga I’m doing is a specific “brand” called Hotpod Yoga. It’s not regular yoga, and it’s not Bikram. You might not have a hotpod in your town. But, if you do, and you fancy giving it a try, scroll down for my handy guide. Let’s om shanti this shiz.

PS If you’re in/near Folkestone and want to try a free class at Hotpod Folkestone, just click here. Select “single class pass” and enter code THEFITWRITER in the discount box – and your class with be totally free. You don’t have to have membership.

Hotpod Yoga: WTF Even Is That?

What is it?

Hot yoga is yoga in a heated room. I’ve been doing something called “Hotpod Yoga”, though, which is a specific style. If you want to actually do hotpod (which is what I’m going on about in these posts), you’ll need to find your local “pod” (here).

So… it’s yoga in a hot room?

No. It’s yoga, inside a heated up “pod”, which is itself inside a room. Basically: you go into the building from outside, get changed/hang your stuff up/check in, then enter the pod before the class.

How big are the pods?

Much as it would tickle me to tell you that they’re individual – like in the film Cocoon – this is not true. The pod is a big inflatable – room sized, really – but slightly dome shaped. It’s large enough for about 20 people to stand up straight, lay down flat, and stretch their limbs out without getting overly familiar.

How hot it is? And is the temperature consistent throughout the class?

Hotpod yoga is heated to 37*C (done via special heaters all around the inside of the pod), and it’s a humid atmosphere rather than dry. The 37*C is consistent, but the pod does warm up as the bodies do. The fuller the class, the hotter it tends to get.

Is it the same as Bikram?

I didn’t know the answer to this at first, because I’m a yoga dunce and don’t know what Bikram is. Turns out the answer is “no”. Bikram is a very specific system of yoga, which follows the same set poses every single class (and it’s heated to 40*C, not 37*C). No, this is not Bikram. 

What kind of yoga is it?

Hotpod calls itself a Vinyasa Flow style. Allow me to explain that in beginner newbie terms (for myself as much as for you). This means you do some warm up stuff to mobilise through the spine and get yourself calm and focused. Then you move into the main part of the class, which is a series of “flows”. You might recognise some bits of this: it involves things like Downward Dog, chaturangas, Warrior poses, and Triangle pose. Then there’s usually some kind of balance section, some forward folds and back bends, some ab/core focus work, and some seated stuff like forward folds and twists.

Why is it better than just regular yoga?

I’m not sure anyone is saying it’s better, just different. I’ll tell you why I find it better. First of all, it feels more like a workout (due to the heat, the sweat, and the fact that you can get deeper into the poses and work harder). The atmosphere is really special (the pod, the dim lighting, the music, and the nice aromatherapy smell). I know full well that sweating doesn’t burn fat or burn more calories (etc) but I do think that working in a hot environment enables you to get into the workout more quickly, work more deeply, and push a bit harder.

Do I have to be bendy to be able to do it?

Absolutely not. There are people of all ages, shapes, sizes, and yoga levels there. I’m not especially bendy, but I’ve got tons better.

I’ve never done any yoga, will I be OK? 

Yep. The teacher gives instructions throughout, and walks around the pod watching and making adjustments (if you don’t want to be touched, you always have the opportunity to say so before the class starts). If you get confused, drop back down to a basic pose (you’ll be shown this) as just watch or call the teacher over.

I have low blood pressure and get dizzy in the heat. 

Me too man. And I have had slightly dizzy spells – only when standing up straight from a forward fold (hardly surprising!) Just take it very slowly – you are encouraged to do this anyway, for the sake of your neck and spine. Keep sipping your drink, and drop down into a basic pose if you need a break. I have postural hypotension and haven’t had any dodgy moments in class.

What should I wear?

As little as possible without causing any consternation (to yourself or others). I started out in leggings, sports bra, and a vest top. I’ve since graduated (in confidence and IDGAF levels) to either sports bra and leggings, or little shorts and vest top.

Is it claustrophobic in the pod?

I don’t think so, but then again I don’t get claustrophobic. I guess you’d have to try it. It’s not small. It’s more like being in a dark marquee (?)

Is it stinky?

Not at all. In fact our hotpod uses aromatherapy oils in the pod (not sure if they all do this).

Do they play music or anything?

Yep. Not dance music obviously.

I’m a bit embarrassed, I don’t want people watching me.

They probably don’t want you watching them, either. The good news is that the pod has subdued lighting and no mirrors. Everyone will be focusing on themselves anyway. And you’re in downward dog a lot. I tend to have my eyes closed for much of the class – perhaps everyone else does, too?

Do I need a mat or do they provide them?

They provide them. 

Do I need a towel?

Yes. Take a big one (yoga mat sized) plus a smaller one (hand towel sized) for general moppage.

I’m a runner/bodybuilder/spin addict, do I really need yoga?

Check you out with your existential questions. Do any of us really NEED anything? I don’t know. I like to have more of a rounded, athletic approach to fitness. I think training should include some resistance/strength work, some cardio, some yoga or other restorative work. So – yes. But it’s up to you obviously. I will say that hotpod yoga has without a doubt helped my weights training (and recovery).

How sweaty will I get?

Very! Like you’ve been hiking in a rainforest.

Are there toilets and showers?

There are at Folkestone Hotpod but I guess each one differs – best to ask them directly. Probably though.

Should I bring water?

100% Bring a big bottle, and think about bringing some kind of electrolyte drink especially if you do other training or are planning another hotpod session the next day.

Hope that helps! If you decide to go, I really hope you love it as much as I do.

=

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist with 14 years experience in writing content and direct response copy for the fitness industry. Get in touch via Facebook, by sending a message here.


10 Hotpod Yoga Sessions In 11 Days: What I Learned

June 5, 2018

Do you yoga? It’s always been one of those things I “know I should do”. And – when I get round to it – I love it. But for various reasons, it’s never stuck. However, the older I get (especially since I still lift pretty heavy), the more I “should” do yoga.

So when a new hot yoga studio (Hotpod Yoga Folkestone) opened up a 5 minute walk from my house, I was excited!

And then I realised the owner was a schoolfriend of mine who I haven’t seen since the 90s (no, not the 1890s, although sometimes it does feel that long ago).

Done deal.

I booked myself in for a taster session, not knowing what to expect. Would it be too hot? Would I be able to do it? Would it actually hold my interest more than any of the gym studio/village hall yoga classes I’ve previously done?

Verdict: I loved it!  So I took Hotpod Yoga Folkestone up on their intro offer (a 10-day pass for £14)…. and challenged myself to going every day for 10 days. Because we all know I don’t do things by halves, and a 10-day pass is like a red rag to a bull. (A chilled out, zen bull, obvs.)

I didn’t end up making 10 classes in 10 days (but I’m totally chilled about it…!) However, if we count my taster session, I did 10 classes in 11 days.

(The day I missed was due to doing Stand-up Paddleboarding so….hopefully that’s a good enough excuse).

Here’s how I found it – and what I learned from doing 11 hot yoga sessions in 10 days.

(I’ll write a Hotpod Yoga FAQ type post soon – but if you have any specific questions, leave a comment and I’ll answer)

Day 1 (Sunday): taster session

Ooh, this is a bit different to yoga in a hall. The hot pod itself is like a big, room-sized inflatable inside the studio building. Intriguing. Inside, it’s warm – very warm, but lovely. The pod is dimly lit – which is nice because it means I can zone in and focus on myself without worrying what anyone else is doing. No mirrors – I like that. 10 minutes later: man this is hot! So sweaty! Note to self: bring a larger towel. 60 minutes later: I LOVE that. I could do it (it was challenging, but everything was explained well and lots of options given). I feel relaxed, energised, stretched, and like I’ve had a good workout. I haven’t been this sweaty in years. How is there sweat in my EARS?

Day 2: Monday morning

I’m legit excited to get to yoga. I haven’t fallen in love with a new form of exercise like this for ages. Monday morning session is an incredible way to start the week. No phone, no notifications, no chance to check anything or be distracted. Time for me, to focus on myself, and to start the week with a calm, clear mindset.

Day 3: Tuesday lunchtime

Today’s session seemed slightly easier, and I didn’t sweat nearly as much. Is my body getting used to it? Will I eventually stop sweating altogether during class? (This saddens me – I like the sweat).

Day 4: Wednesday morning

Lovely session today, these classes are already becoming a highlight. Part social, part switch-off, part exercise. We did some balances – and I managed to stand on one leg holding onto my outstretched foot. No mean feat for me!

Day 5: Friday evening

I’ve only missed one day but I can really feel it! Physically, but mentally/emotionally too. Hotpod yoga really is such a lovely short escape from the outside world, my to-do list, phone, noise, and stimulation. I’m having the most stressful work week in living memory, and I actually don’t know that I would have coped without hotpod. Today’s class was wonderful – the teacher is obviously trained in mindfulness and the emotional side of yoga, too, and her words really resonated with me.

Day 6: Saturday morning

A very hot and sweaty class (my theory from the other day was completely unfounded!) The flow (the main section of the class) was a lot faster than usual. Each teacher does things slightly differently, although the structure of the class and the core poses are the same. Note to self: bring a second towel (big one to lay on the mat, small one to actually mop self with). I went to the gym later in the day and the session felt very hard. Must drink more if I’m training and doing hotpod on the same day.

Day 7: Sunday morning

Finally – a class with my friend Ruth, owner of Hotpod Yoga Folkestone. Bought a proper yoga towel (little rubber dots on the underside so it doesn’t move around on the mat). Shit’s getting serious!

Day 8: Monday morning

Ahhh my favourite class. I really like this teacher’s style and the way she adds some mindfulness in, plus the Monday morning timing means this class is pure me-time, a pause to set the week up properly before life rushes in. It’s calming and grounding. Back at home, my work stress continues apace but I actually took time out to lie down for 5 minutes in a yoga pose, and do nothing. I would normally have carried on stressing (and wasted more than those 5 minutes just being stressed).

Day 9: Tuesday morning

At yoga for 7am, who even am I? I don’t get up for 7am anything unless it involves an overseas flight or perhaps a good breakfast. This class was very sweaty. So a) my body isn’t getting used to it and b) first class of the morning sessions can be hot! My body is looking and feeling different – leaner? I know the heat doesn’t sweat fat away or anything like that (!) But I can notice subtle changes since starting yoga and doing slightly less gym work.

Day 10: Wednesday morning

Feeling slightly bereft at reaching my final day of the 10-day pass. Hotpod yoga has me hooked. I love it. LOVE it. It’s changed the game for me: physically (more flexible, that persistent bit of my back which always needs cracking has GONE, even my “arthritic” toe is amazingly better), strength wise (I’m doing body weight moves I haven’t tried in years), peace, calmness, focus, clarity.

7 Lessons From 10 Hotpod Yoga Classes

1 Yoga is not a cop-out.

Yes, yoga is relaxing, quiet, and tranquil. But it’s doesn’t have to be easy (unless you want it to be). My 10 sessions of yoga worked me hard. Some days, my triceps still hurt from the day before (all those chaturangas!) After day 2, my abs hurt in new and interesting ways (serratus?) My hamstrings, shoulders, glutes all felt the benefit.

2 Sweating is lovely

I might not be able to convince you on this one if you’re squeamish about sweatiness. But I love it (as long as I can get a shower and a change of clothes reasonably quickly). The intense sweatiness of the 37*C heat (plus humidity from a steam machine thingy) leads to unbelievable sweatiness. This helps you get deeper into the poses, wasting less time on warming up. As a bonus, my skin was really lovely after just a couple of sessions!

3 Hydrate properly

Don’t underestimate how much you need to rehydrate after hotpod yoga. I took a 1.5 litre bottle to every session and got through it easily. I started just taking my traditional “weak apple squash”, but soon graduated to an electrolyte drink or coconut water (I used this from Project E2 – full disclosure, they’re a client so I got it sent free, but it is very good! – and this coconut water powder from Bulkpowders). Fluid isn’t enough – use electrolytes, especially if you need to do anything else active that day.

4 Your appetite will be affected

Well, mine was anyway. I lost a bit of weight over the couple of weeks I did hotpod yoga, but it wasn’t to do with the yoga itself (and definitely not to do with the heat/sweating – you can’t sweat body fat away!) It was to do with a bit of extra walking (I walk there and back), plus the fact that my appetite was noticeably reduced. I don’t know if this due to the heat and sweating (ever noticed how you want to eat less on hot days?) Whatever the reason – the circumstances and knock-on effects of adding yoga into my routine meant I ate less.

5 Two towels

I really advise two towels. A big one to lay on your mat (hotpod provide the mats btw). But a smaller one (hand towel size) to use as and when during class. You’ll probably want to wipe your face, and dry off your knee/shin before you try to hold on for balances!

6 Hotpod compliments other training

During my 10-day stint, I did significantly less gym training and cardio. But I didn’t lose any strength, size, muscle tone (and nor did I suddenly pile on 20 stone). If you think yoga is “just stretching”, think again. It’s essentially a series of bodyweight exercises done over and over again. I ached from it. I felt it in my triceps, shoulders, upper back, quads, hamstrings, glutes, abs, core. But it’s also wonderfully restorative and healing. My 10-day run of yoga cured an annoying “click” I’ve had for years in my thoracic spine (and it hasn’t come back!) My arthritic/whatever is wrong with it toe has more range of movement and hurts much much less than before. I can turn my neck further than before. I can move my spine more easily than before. I just feel… more athletic.

7 You might “have a release”

Not like that! Like this. OK, so this is weird, but apparently not uncommon so I don’t mind sharing.

In one class early on in my 10 day stint, the teacher was doing a bit of mindfulness chat with us. Out of nowhere, a word came into my head. An emotion. It’s not something I’ve ever associated with myself before. It’s not something I was aware that I was feeling. But it was a very strong feeling and made me… not upset, exactly, but definitely thoughtful. Luckily, the pod is a very calm and safe feeling place to have a “moment” – a bit dark, quiet, enclosed, and private. On the way home, I rang my yoga-loving friend and told her about my odd experience. Ooh, she said. You had a release! (It’s a thing)

I have since had another release (not that – stop it). This was in a Friday evening class, at the end of a full-on week, and before a significant weekend. The teacher was saying a few lovely words which really resonated with me. Suddenly, as I lay there on my back in savasana, I started to cry. Not out-loud “boo hoo” type wailing. Just tears coming out of my eyes and trickling down my face. It felt fine. I just let it happen. And there was so much sweat all over my face and neck anyway that it hardly mattered. Afterwards I felt calm and as if my brain had sorted a few things out.

So – there you have it. Hotpod yoga UK is an amazing new addition to my life. It’s helping me maintain strength (in different ways to weight training). It chills me out on stressful days. It gives me an escape from the bleeps and bloops of phones and outside distractions. I love it!

If you’re local to Folkestone and want to try a free class, click here. Select single class pass and enter code THEFITWRITER in the discount box – and your class with be totally free.

Stay tuned for a hotpod yoga FAQ. If you have any questions about the classes, how it works, what to expect – leave a comment or message me.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist with 14 years experience in writing content and direct response copy for the fitness industry. Get in touch via Facebook, by sending a message here.


Favourite Fitness & Nutrition Podcasts 2017

December 11, 2017

I like podcasts. Maybe you do, too. We should talk about that.

It’s been ages since I did a favourite podcasts post (my first podcast round-up was back in 2011 if you want a LOL, and then I wrote one in 2013 and later in 2013).

Many of those podcasts have departed to the great audio booth in the sky, and some are still around but either they’ve changed direction of (more likely) I have.

Either way, it’s time for an update. Here’s what I listen to on the regular.

(Most are about training and/or nutrition, but I’ve included some of my favourite business / personal development ones, too. You can only listen to so much industry chat, you know, however good the content and solid the banter!)

Got any recommendations for me? Leave me a comment.

Shredded By Science
(Lawrence Judd & the SBS team)

The SBS podcast is hosted by Lawrence Judd with regular input from Patrick (of Eat, Train, Progress) and SBS head honcho Luke Johnson. This podcast is mainly aimed at fitness professionals, but don’t have to be one to get a lot from it. If you’re interested in training, nutrition, and how the industry is changing, you’ll learn a lot (and laugh a lot!) They discuss great topics and have some brilliant guests. And Lawrence’s very dry humour often has me literally LOLing (awkward since I listen to podcasts when I’m out walking the dog)

3D Muscle Journey
(Andrea Valdez & the 3DMJ team)

3DMJ are kind of the OGs of the “flexible dieting” world, and the collected wisdom of host Andrea Valdez, Brad Loomis, Jeff Alberts, Alberto Nunez, and Eric Helms packs a punch. The 3DMJ podcast is firmly aimed at natural bodybuilding competitors, but anyone who is interested in training and eating for body recomp will get something from it. By the way, I’m #TeamJeff.


Muscle Box Radio
(Team Box)

The Muscle Box podcast will at any one time feature two or more of Team Box’s six coaches. Sometimes you even get all of them, which is equal parts hilarity and knowledge overload. This podcast will interest you if you’re into flexible dieting, training for hypertrophy, competing, and staying one step ahead of industry BS. Each of the coaches brings their own experience to the topics, and you’ll get plenty of clear advice to cut through diet and fitness confusion. Oh – you must like puns if you listen to this podcast. Sorry, I can’t decide which #TeamBoxCoach I am. That’s like asking me to choose my favourite member of Take That.


Push Pull Legs podcast
(Dan Meek and Tom Hall)

A second mention for Dan Meek (who is one of the Team Box coaches). The PPL podcast will interest you if you’re more into training as well as nutrition, since co-host Tom Hall is a powerlifting coach. As the name suggests, there’s plenty of training and programming talk on the PPL podcast, plus myth busting and the regular “Stupid Things We’ve Seen On The Internet”.

Sigma Nutrition Radio
(Danny Lennon)

If you’re into sports/performance nutrition, you’ll want to listen to Danny Lennon’s Sigma Nutrition show. It can sometimes be heavy going, but this is not designed to be magazine-style fluff. He has some outstanding guests on and discusses latest research, and his hosting style is really engaging. Listen to this podcast and you will be more clued-up than the majority of the people in the industry.

Mastery podcast
(Mark Coles)

M10’s Mark Coles is back with a new podcast that gives unmissable content on business mindset and personal development. He puts out some very short weekly content, aimed at getting you focused and fired up for the week ahead. And his longer episodes delve deeper into the key personal development topics that Mark is known for throughout the fitpro industry. I love listening to this on a Monday morning dog walk.

Mindset With Muscle
(Jamie Alderton)

Anyone who has the kind of attitude to life that means he will run backwards for 24 hours to raise money for charity is worth listening to (yes, Jamie did that). This podcast is packed with his trademark no-nonsense, practical, motivational content about business, personal development, and self-improvement. There’s something here for everyone. I deny you not to get fired up. (Although you might not go out and run backwards for 24 hours… but that’s OK.)

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist with 13 years experience in writing content and direct response copy for the fitness industry. Get in touch via Facebook, by sending a message here.


Making Homemade Seitan for Vegan Month

November 30, 2017

Today is the final day of Vegan Month, so I decided to go out with a flourish: by making homemade seitan from scratch.

Now, please bear in mind that I have never eaten seitan. Or even seen it. It’s very difficult to make something when your brain has absolutely no idea what the thing should look like.

What is seitan?

It’s a vegan protein source often called “wheat meat”. It is made from vital wheat gluten (gluten is after all a protein – the protein in wheat, rye, barley and some other grains I can’t remember right now). Needless to say, seitan is not going to be good for coeliacs or Crohn’s sufferers.

But I have no reason to avoid gluten, so off I went to my local independent healthfood shop (holla Folkestone Whole Foods who were extremely helpful, and even high fived me!)

The recipe

I used the basic seitan recipe from Fit Pro Client Recipes (which also has various recipes for how to use your seitan once you’ve made it). But, me being me, I adapted it a bit. Oh, and totally forgot to add one ingredient (I found it under my jumper halfway through).

Here’s how the seitan happened.

Ingredients:

  • 140g wheat gluten
  • 5 “normal” spoons of nutritional yeast (meant to be 3 tbsp but I don’t own any tbsps)
  • 1.5 vegan stock cubes (recipe called for various amounts of “broth” but I just used stock cubes)
  • 2 “normal” spoons of olive oil (meant to be 1 tbsp)
  • 8 “normal” spoons of soy sauce
  • 8 “normal” spoons of lemon juice (meant to be 2 tbsp but I like lemon)
  •  2 garlic cloves (not very well chopped – I should have crushed them)
  • Various herbs and spices: paprika, black pepper, coriander.

Method:

  • Fill a pan about 6″ with water and add one of the stock cubes and 1/2 of the soy sauce. Set this boiling whilst you make the seitan. (This is the broth that the seitan will “steam” in to cook).
  • In a big bowl, mix the wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, and spices/herbs.
  • In another bowl, mix the 1/2 stock cube with cold water, add the other half of the soy sauce, the garlic, the olive oil, and the lemon juice.
  • Pour the liquid into the dry mix and mix it about with a wooden spoon. It will clump together.
  • Then get in there with your hands and knead it. It gets really bouncy and weird. Knead for about 3 mins.
  • Cut the dough (are we calling it dough? We are now) into 3 with a sharp knife.
  • Take each piece in your palms and knead it a bit more, then form it into whatever shape you want. I went for “patties” but I guess you could make sausage type things?
  • Lower your seitan into the boiling broth, then reduce it to a simmer. Put a lid on the pan but leave a gap for the steam to get out.
  • Simmer the seitan for 45 mins, turning it occasionally. Then turn the heat off and let it sit in the broth for 10 more mins. Then take it out and put it on kitchen towel.
  • Then… use it!

This makes it sound a LOT more complicated than it is. It’s easy. It took me about 15 mins (plus the steaming time). It’s essentially: dry mix, wet mix, combine them, knead it, steam it.

Macros

I’ll be honest, I didn’t calculate it. Sorry. But seitan is obviously high in protein (the highest protein non-animal source?), and the only added fat in this recipe is from the olive oil.

The verdict?

Wowsers! I am seriously impressed (so was the dog, as you’ll see if you have a chance to watch my Insta story in the next few hours).

It looks like meat.
It slices like meat.
It has the texture of meat.
It’s chewy like meat.

It doesn’t taste like meat, but then again there is no single “meat” taste anyway, is there?

It tastes… hearty, and chewy, and of all the flavours you add to it. I guess you could make a more spicy version, or one with Thai/BBQ/Indian (etc) flavours to suit. You’d also use your seitan like meat – in a dish – so more chance to flavour it then too.

But honestly I just ate a couple of slices once it had cooled down, just like this. OK I’d just got home from the gym so I was hungry, but hand on heart I enjoyed it.

So – thank you to the people who challenged me to make seitan during Vegan Month! I’m really glad I did, and I will make it again.

Final Vegan Month round up post to come tomorrow. It’s been fun!

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist with 13 years experience in writing content and direct response copy for the fitness industry. Get in touch via Facebook, by sending a message here.


My Vegan Month: 2 Weeks In

November 12, 2017

Week 2 (well, 12 days) of my “go vegan for a month” adventure has sent me a couple of challenges: hormonal, and social. The first was difficult at the time, but very short lived. The second was absolutely fine, thanks in part to understanding and thoughtful family members. But it did also go to show that eating vegan doesn’t have to be a drama.

I wrote about the hormonal challenge here, but had some helpful advice from vegan female friends. A couple of them said that they use big field/Portabello mushrooms for a more “meaty” texture if they ever crave that kind of meal. And one said that eating a vegan diet has actually helped to settle the ups and down of hormonal food cravings. So perhaps mine were just habit?

Regardless, I felt completely fine within a couple of days, and haven’t had any cravings for red meat or eggs (the culprits!) since.

Today was my first social event as a vegan (on day 12 of the month… clearly I lead a thrilling life packed with brunch dates, lunch dates, cocktails, the pub, and going out for dinner…)

My sister got home yesterday from a few weeks away doing charity work in South Africa (BTW you can donate to the cause here). So today, we all got together for Sunday lunch. Sunday lunch = roast, right? But vegans don’t eat roast chicken. Or the roast parsnips which were done in the chicken fat. Or the stuffing balls. Or the little sausage things. Nor do they eat Yorkshire puds (do they? I wasn’t sure, so I didn’t). And they sure as shit don’t eat homemade pear and almond tart, or homemade honeycomb icecream.

However, my family very kindly cooked the roast potatoes in non-animal fat, made me a delicious ratatouille, and kept the green veg free from butter. Then they kept some of the honeycomb aside (it’s called honeycomb but it’s nothing to do with honey), and made me a poached pear in place of the pear tart.

Job done. It was delicious, I still got to eat with everyone, and… there’s really nothing more to be said about it.

Veganism doesn’t have to cause a big drama. (Thank you to my thoughtful family for making me those bits & bobs 🙂 )

What else do I have to report?

Training: still going great. I’ve actually changed my split recently, so frequency is higher. It’s been a while since I trained this frequently. But I’m recovering fine and training at a good intensity. I do have DOMS but I don’t think that’s to do with the vegan diet (?) I think it’s just from the volume, frequency, and intensity of training.

Hunger: I have felt hungry this week, but not much. And I suspect it’s because of the training. I’m always hungry anyway regardless of what I eat!

Cravings: apart from the hormonal ones, none. I’m really surprised about this. I wonder if it’s a case of fewer options = less food focus? I know I can’t have XYZ food, so I just don’t bother thinking about it. (My bodybuilder-prep “training” is probably coming in useful here).

I found Robert Cheeke’s “Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness” in my massive book collection, it’s something I was sent to review on this blog back in 2011! (Cringe at my 2011 posts!) I’ve no idea if the info is outdated, or what the author has to say about bodybuilding and veganism in 2017. But I had a read back through the nutrition sections. These lists are useful – they’re online at Robert Cheeke’s website (he’s the author of the book).

Vegans/nutritionists – is this info complete and up to date? Would you add anything? (I’m aware that 7 years is a long time in nutrition!)

OK, I think that’s my update. I did intend to bake today but ran out of time. I’ll do it in the week and let you know how it turned out. I’ll be using Protein Pow’s pea protein baking/cooking mix. I want to make some kind of banana bread, or protein bars. I will make it up as I go along, and see how it turns out. My approach to much of life, tbf.

Bye!

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist with 13 years experience in writing content and direct response copy for the fitness industry. Get in touch via Facebook, by sending a message here.


My Vegan Month: One Problem With It Being “A Month”

November 10, 2017

Just a quick mid-week update today, because I hit a bump in the road on my Vegan Month adventure. I could have predicted it: after all, doing “a vegan month” will inevitably mean contending with a month’s worth of hormonal peaks and troughs.

Yesterday (and today) have been a trough.

I did wonder (in my intro post) whether the time around my period would lead to any cravings for meat/iron rich foods/fattier foods. It’s common knowledge that most women gravitate towards certain foods just before or during their periods. For me, it’s never been chocolate (sorry to shatter the cliche). But I definitely crave red meat, oily fish, and richer/fattier foods in general.

I’m no nutritionist, and this is totally a n=1, but I guess my body is asking for more iron (?), more calories (?) (fats being the most calorie-dense macronutrient), or… something. I dunno. But I physically crave red meat and even organ meat (sorry, vegans!) at this time in my cycle. It’s not just a vague “ooh I quite fancy that”. It’s a sudden physical need.

Anyway, all of that is to give context of how I usually feel, and to say that I went into this Vegan Month wondering if I’d get my usual cravings (and – if so – how I’d cope).

Well, yes, I did. Last night I did a pretty hefty pull session and was very hungry when I got in. I cooked my tofu and veggies in spray oil, and had that with the lentil “pasta” above. But even as I was making it, I knew it wasn’t what I really needed. I wanted beef mince with that pasta. Or even an egg stirred in or on top. Meat. Eggs. Egg yolk. Red meat.

Sigh.

What I don’t know is how to “replicate” what I need via vegan foods. I’m pretty sure I’m getting enough iron, B Vitamins, and everything else. I really do eat a wide variety of foods. Was it habit? Who knows.

So today I made an extra effort to make my meals super-tasty with herbs and spices etc. And I upped my fats a bit, and made sure I got them from “useful” sources (like the Omega Oil I’m using whilst I can’t have fish oil) rather than…er…vegan protein bars 😉

That’s my quick update. Kind of something and nothing really. But if any vegan ladies are reading – particularly those who haven’t been vegan their whole adult lives – I’d love to know if you crave particular foods around your period, and what vegan foods you turn to?

Ooh! Another question. I’m giving blood next week and had a sudden thought  – are any of the snacks at the “post-donation sit down area” vegan?! THESE ARE THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS, PEOPLE!

Proper update coming on Sunday as usual!

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist with 13 years experience in writing content and direct response copy for the fitness industry. Get in touch via Facebook, by sending a message here.


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