My SBS Radio podcast interview: Vegan Month revisited

January 28, 2018

Just a quick one to say that I’m on the Shredded By Science podcast – SBS Radio.

Lawrence Judd invited me on as part of their “Vegan January” focus, to talk about the Vegan Month I did last year. Have a listen – it’s on iTunes or Spotify at this link.

The episode after mine features Melody Schoenfeld – an actual real proper vegan! – who’s been vegan for 20+ years, trains, and does various strength sports. So if you’re interested in Veganism and strength/hypertrophy, give her interview a listen too.

Thanks Shredded By Science for having me on the podcast!

Don’t forget you can find all of my Vegan Month posts here and find me on Instagram here.

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.


“Where Did I Get My Protein?” As A Vegan…

December 3, 2017

This is a post-script to my Vegan Month blogs. Someone asked me to blog about the various protein sources I ate during Vegan Month. So – here they are!

The obvious ones

Tofu

I mostly used firm plain tofu for slicing/chopping and putting into dishes. I used Cauldron brand, but I’m sure there are others. I bought their marinaded chunks of tofu a couple of times (good for putting on salads etc) but the macros are surprisingly high.

Beans and pulses

I went with cooking my own from dried. It doesn’t take long (well, it does, but you just leave them cooking), and I think they turn out much nicer than canned. Plus, you know, less packaging to throw away. I did a weekly batch of chickpeas, red lentils, and split peas (usually with some spices and/or a stock cube in the water).  I also discovered fava beans for the first time – a real favourite! They don’t need pre-soaking. I cook them with turmeric, chilli flakes or fresh chilli, black pepper, and maybe a bit of garlic. Just let it all cook until the water has disappeared. Delicious.

Grains

Now, obviously there is some protein in almost everything. So I’m not going to list everything that “gave me protein” during Vegan Month because that would end up including broccoli etc. I’ll just mention the things I used to try and keep my protein high. Quinoa and buckwheat were two things I introduced that I don’t usually eat. I used buckwheat for savoury dishes (like you would use rice), and for sweet (like porridge). Both very easy to cook and store for a few days too.

“Alternative” pastas

I ate pastas made from green pea, chickpea flour, lentil flour, and soybean. These aren’t cheap, but they are a good way to “rethink” a meal – making the formerly carb aspect (pasta) the protein, and the formerly protein aspect (the sauce) carb. So I’d have one of these pastas with a veggie topping, maybe with some chickpeas and/or tofu in it. All of these pastas are tasty. You can get a green pea one and a red lentil one from most supermarkets (the rest I got from health food shops or online). This is one brand I found, but a couple of supermarkets have started doing their own brand (usually in the Free From bit).

Protein powder

I was sent a couple of big bags of Bulk Powders’s Vegan Complete protein which was a godsend. It’s a blend of plant-based protein powders and very tasty. I used it in place of whey in my morning porridge, and had it after training. I won’t be going back to whey protein now. I will continue to use a vegan protein blend, or a pea protein powder. Protein powder is an obvious way to get your protein up without carbs or fats. There are a lot of vegan protein powders and protein blends available these days.

Quorn

Now then! I had no idea that not all Quorn products are vegan – thank you to my friend who pointed this out, otherwise I probably would have picked up a load of products without realising. You have to look for the ones which are clearly labeled as vegan on the front. The others contain egg. I used the Quorn chunks (which are actually decent, in a pasta sauce etc).

Soy/meat free mince

Don’t use the Quorn brand version which is not vegan. I used supermarket own brand, but you do have to check that it doesn’t contain egg. I also used dry soya mince a few times but it’s not the best. You have to use it in a bolognese type affair and season the living daylights out of it.

Yoghurts

I’ve gone right off the idea of yoghurt for some reason, but there were a couple of times that I really fancied something different and sweet. So I had the little fruity Alpro yoghurts – the multipack with “banana and something” and “pear and something” is nice.

And an honourary mention for

My homemade seitan. I did tell you that I made seitan from scratch, didn’t I? Oh, good. 😉

Hope that helps with ideas for vegan protein (from a temporary vegan!)

All the Vegan Month posts can be found here >> Vegan Month experiment <<.

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.


Vegan Food Prep (with help from Fitproclientrecipes)

November 11, 2017

One of the things I was looking forward to most about “going vegan for a month” was cooking 🙂 I enjoy cooking all the time, but I get stuck in a rut with my regular foods, and it’s been ages since I’ve tried anything new. This vegan experiment has forced me to get creative and rethink how I construct meals.

(Side note: I was Googling “Tempeh” earlier – as you do – and realised how difficult it is to find tempeh in supermarkets. Then I discovered that our local farmers’ market/food co-operative sells it! Locally made and fresh. I’ve ordered some and will collect it on Tuesday. Hit me up with your best tempeh ideas?!)

Back to my food prep…

My friends at FitPro Client Recipes (the online recipe database for PTs) gave me a free log in for the month. This amazing resource has around 2000 recipes at the time of writing, and almost 20% of them are vegan.

Look how easy it is to select food by diet type, food type, meal type or anything else a PT client might want to know! I narrowed it down to Vegan recipes and main meals.

For tonight’s food prep, I decided on a Split Pea and Cauliflower Curry (mainly because I had all the ingredients).

I altered it a bit, so I’ll give you my recipe rather than the FCPR one (I never was any good at following recipes to the letter!) Thanks FitPro Client Recipes for a ton of ideas.

This made 4 Nicola-sized servings.

Split Pea, Tofu, & Cauli Curry

Ingredients:

  • 20g oil
  • 400g tofu (I used the Cauldron brand) – pressed and chopped
  • 140g (dry weight) split peas (I used 1/2 green, 1/2 yellow mainly because I didn’t know if they taste the same)
  • Vegan stock
  • 400g cauliflower (chopped)
  • 200g tomatoes (chopped)
  • 100g red bell pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves (chopped)
  • 1/2 green chilli (chopped)
  • Bit of lemon rind (sliced really thin) plus lemon juice
  • Bit of fresh ginger (chopped)
  • Coriander powder, black pepper, turmeric
  • Fresh coriander (chop the stalks, keep the leaves aside for later)

How to make it:

  • Cook the split peas in the stock (they will take about 40 mins)
  • Heat the oil in a heavy pan (one that has a lid)
  • Cook the garlic, coriander powder, black pepper, lemon rind, coriander stalks, and ginger for a minute or so
  • Add in the tofu and let it cook through (stir it a bit)
  • Add the tomatoes and red pepper and cook for a bit (put the lid on)
  • Add the cauliflower, stir it, put the lid on (cook for about 5 mins)
  • Put the split peas in (if there’s any stock liquid left, don’t drain it off just add it in too) and some lemon juice.
  • Stir, cover the pan, leave it for 5-10 mins.
  • Add the fresh coriander leaves, turn it off and ideally leave it to cool (it tastes even nicer once it’s been left for a bit).

Per (huge) serving
Cals 289
Pro 22
Carb 20
Fat 13

I made this earlier today and got home famished from a “road trip” gym visit. I was SO GLAD I’d made this! The house smelled great, and the food tasted amazing. It’s spicy and rich with a ton of flavour, but not too hot (green chilli instead of red).

Tomorrow I’m going to attempt to do some vegan baking. I’ve honestly no idea if it will work (without eggs) but if it does, I’ll post the recipe.

Let me know if you have a favourite vegan recipe so I can expand my repertoire!

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: 1 Week In

November 5, 2017

It’s not quite one week in to “World Vegan Month”, but Sunday seems a good day for a round up.

In case you missed it, I’m “going vegan” for the month. I’ve gone into this with no preconceptions, no expectations, and no particular concerns. So these round up blog posts will simply be what’s on my mind, and what (if anything) has surprised me about being vegan so far.

How have I felt?

Surprisingly, no different to usual. Hunger and appetite are about the same. If anything, I feel less hungry – more balanced – than eating my usual foods. I don’t know if this is an increase in fibre, or food volume? I should point out that I haven’t done a complete 180* in my food choices here. I was already eating a “good diet”, of “mostly whole foods”, with almost everything prepped from scratch by my own hands. I already ate a lot of veg, quite a lot of pulses/lentils.

So what’s changed?

Well, obviously no meat, fish, or eggs. I didn’t eat much dairy anyway (for some reason it makes me a bit queasy these days). But of course there is a bit of dairy in things like sauces, chocolate, dressings etc.

Snacks and “quick grab” foods are more difficult

The few times I have felt hungry have been the times I’d typically grab a quick “something”. Doing that is much more difficult as a vegan, it turns out. Maybe not once you’ve got used to it, I suppose. But where I might make myself a quick protein mugcake (EGGS!), or some scrambled eggs (EGGS!), I’m now left opening and shutting the fridge door thinking: “hmmm”.  There are plenty of things I can snack on, of course. But at this stage in my vegan adventure, I can only think in meals. (Thank you to Bulk Powders who gifted me a box of their Chocolate Coconut vegan protein bars which have been my sweet treats!)

Protein is a little harder to hit

It’s not difficult to eat protein as a vegan – plenty of plant sources have decent protein (tofu, pulses, lentils) and of course there is trace protein in pretty much everything. But it’s more difficult to – say – bump up a meal by 20g protein. Because vegan protein is tied in to other macros. So I have been having more servings of protein powder than usual (thanks again to Bulk Powders for this vegan protein powder!)

You have to rethink “meal construction”

As an omnivore, you tend to think of your macros separately. “OK, for my carbs I’ll do potatoes…. I’ll have chicken with that for my protein, and if I need any fats in there I’ll put some butter on top.” Or whatever. A bit more creative than that, but you get the idea. You can’t do that with vegan foods, because (as mentioned), the macros are all attached. So I’ve been trying to find higher protein versions of “carb” foods – like these pasta shapes (made from lentil flour and green pea flour), so then I can just have a veggie sauce on top and the macros are pretty decent.

Food shopping is eye-opening

I did a late night dash to the supermarket on the 1st, because I realised I didn’t really have enough food in the house to create a vegan meal. It was eye-opening. I realised how people must feel when they first embark on a “healthy eating plan” for the first time. All of a sudden, entire sections of the shop are off limits or completely redundant. You have to scrutinise labels (who knew that not all Quorn products are in fact vegan? Not me!) The shop took ages (see “scrutinising food labels”) but by the end of it my trolley was pretty sparse.

Question of the week

What is creatine? I mean, what is it actually made from? Is it… vegan? (I hope so! If it isn’t, please let me down gently!)

Um… what else?

  • Gym performance is absolutely fine. I’ve had a wicked week’s training actually.
  • My guts are fine, thank you 😉
  • Sleep is fine/no different.
  • I haven’t craved/been hungry for/missed anything in particular.

Recipe

I will be using Fitproclientrecipes during the month, to try a whole load of new meals and snacks. I’ll report back.

For now, I will leave you with a recipe I’ve just made up on a whim. I call it Curried Cauliflower & Tofu, because that is what it is.

Ingredients:

  • 20ml oil
  • 400g raw cauliflower, chopped
  • 400g firm tofu, water pressed out
  • 200g tomatoes, chopped
  • Spinach (as much as you want, it will wilt away to nothing anyway)
  • 1 lemon (grate a bit of the rind, and squeeze all of the juice)
  • Garlic paste or fresh garlic
  • Fresh coriander
  • Cumin seeds
  • Turmeric powder
  • Red chili flakes or fresh chili
  • Ground black pepper
  • You could put more herbs/spices in if you have them – I don’t)

Instructions:

  • Heat the oil in a heavy pan (lidded one)
  • Put in the cubed tofu and all the herbs/spices apart from the fresh coriander
  • Let the tofu brown a bit (you won’t be able to tell, because turmeric makes everything yellow, including my fingers, my kitchen surfaces, and my utensils)
  • Add the lemon rind, tomatoes and cauliflower
  • Put the lid on the pan and let it cook away
  • Add the lemon juice & spinach, turn the heat down, and leave it.
  • Put the fresh coriander on top when it’s done

Macros per 1/4 of this recipe:

  • Cals 193
  • P 15
  • C 8
  • F 12

So. There’s my rather underwhelming update after 5 days as a vegan! Let me know if you have any questions (or suggestions).

I’ve got some interviews with real actual (as in permanent!) vegan athletes lined up, as well as more recipes, review of vegan protein products, and anything else that comes to mind! Requests are welcomed.

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: The Start

November 1, 2017

So, I’m “going vegan” for a month. This month, specifically.

Back in September, I got a press release informing me that November is World Vegan Month. “Hm,” I thought, as a fledgling idea popped into my brain.

Eat vegan for World Vegan Month.

And then – because I’d about it – I basically had to see it through. Because that’s how my brain works.

I’m going to post a lot about this during the month:

  • what I expect/hope to get out of it
  • my worries/doubts/concerns
  • any challenges I come up against
  • tips/recipes/brilliant ideas* I come up with (*if relevant)
  • what I learn from this experience
  • whether my macros have to change and/or how difficult it is to keep them the same
  • whether or not I’ll stay eating vegan afterwards

I’m also planning on interviewing a few vegan athletes, bodybuilders, and generally sporty people so you can get some really useful and substantial advice from people who are actually real vegans!

A quick note before we go on: no, I am not a vegan. I am doing this as a personal experiment. That doesn’t mean I think veganism is a joke. I will be taking this seriously during the month, avoiding any animal products, and eating/drinking only 100% vegan. I won’t be extending my temporary veganism to leather or anything like that. (I’m not planning on buying any shoes or handbags in November anyway tbh). I will not be getting into any discussions or debates about the ethical side of veganism. It’s beyond the scope of this blog series. Please trust that I am a decent person, I care about the environment, I love animals, and I won’t even kill a wasp 😉

Phew!

My initial thoughts as my first day of veganism comes to a close.

These are in no particular order; I’m really tired and want to get this post up.

  1. If you haven’t prepared for veganism, you won’t have much to eat. Obvious, perhaps, but I discovered this by lunchtime today. Breakfast was barely different to normal (my usual “protein porridge” but without the splash of liquid egg whites, and with a vegan blend protein powder instead of whey. I use this vegan protein powder from Bulk Powders – who kindly sent me it in support of this blog series. I will do a review another time). If you’re going vegan, go food shopping first, and cook up some beans and pulses!
  2. It is more of a challenge to eat protein (than on a non-vegan diet). This is because vegan proteins are all “connected” to other macros. So if you just ate chicken (say), that would be mostly protein with a tiny bit of fat. White fish would be basically pure protein. Egg whites are also pure protein. But there seem to be very few pure protein sources from plants. Most of them are also quite carby. This is fine, it just means you need to think a bit differently about meeting your macros.
  3. Food shopping is an eye opener. I dashed to Tesco after training tonight, because I had no vegan food ready for dinner. Shopping for vegan food really made me realise how people might feel when they first start “eating healthy”. You have to think hard about everything. Read labels. Compare things. My subsequent vegan shopping trips will be much faster, but this one took ages! And even things you assume are vegan – like Quorn – are not, unless specifically labelled as such. There were vast areas of Tesco that were totally irrelevant to me as a vegan shopper. Most of it, actually, apart from the fresh fruit and veg part.
  4. Thank god I really like vegetables, salad, and fruit.

Here are the questions I hope to answer by the end of this vegan month:

  • did I feel any healthier eating 100% vegan?
  • am I sleeping better?
  • has my body changed at all (composition and/or size?) I’ll be weighing myself and taking waist measurements
  • is my training performance affected at all (better/worse)?
  • do I feel hungrier?
  • how easy (or not) is it to hit my normal macros? and, if I can’t, how do I feel/perform/look on the new macros?
  • what kind of recipes/meals do I end up cooking, and will I keep any of them in my regular diet?
  • will I carry on with all or any of my vegan food choices after 30th November

Right, I’m going to bed!

I hope you’ll find this interesting. If you have any questions, or want me to focus on anything in particular, please leave a comment (or contact me on Facebook or Insta).

Also… if at any point you realise that I’ve totally screwed up and eaten something that’s not actually vegan, please for the love of God tell me gently. I don’t think I can take it! 😉

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.


How Reframing Weight Loss As Budgeting Helps Make Sense Of It All

August 23, 2016

fitness writer bodybuilding dieting

How good are you at handling your finances? Bear with me. This does have something to do with health and fitness!

I recently had a massive communication breakthrough about bodybuilding. So big, so rewarding, that I whooped when I heard about its success. In fact, I am claiming it as one of my finest moments in linguistic creativity. OK, OK – it was with my Dad. Dad has never really understood the dieting side of bodybuilding (despite seeing me diet through numerous “preps” in years gone by). But apparently, something I said to him recently FINALLY made sense to him.

What did I say? I simply compared dieting for fat loss to budgeting for financial savings.

We were talking about flexible dieting.

“It’s not that a bodybuilder CAN’T eat anything,” I said. “It just that they have a small budget to play with. So imagine that you only had £10 spend that day. You COULD buy some slightly-overpriced thing for £6.99 that you don’t really “need”, but then you wouldn’t have much cash left for the rest of the day. Plus you’d probably get home and think…”oh…is that all I got for my money? It looked better in the shop!” Or you could spend £1, £1, £1, £1 (etc) throughout the day. Then get home and think “wow! I managed to buy tons with my £10!”

Apparently this made sense to Dad.

I explained “going out to eat whilst dieting” like this:

“It’s not that they COULDN’T have the dessert, Dad. But it might make more sense to come out and just eat a main. That way, they still get to socialise, but no harm done to their “budget”. It would be like inviting someone out for a shopping day when they are saving up hard to buy a house. They can still come out! But they might say “I can come, but I really can’t spend more than £5 today because I’m saving up for the house deposit.” It’s not the going out shopping for the day that’s the problem. It’s how much they spend whilst they’re out.”

Losing Weight Or Saving Money: Why You Only Really Have A Few Options (Sorry!)

On a roll, I also used the finance/budget analogy with another member of my family recently. This person is keen to lose a bit of weight, but doesn’t want to do the meal plan/12-week transformation thing. She’s been there and done that, and doesn’t fancy the backlash (I don’t blame her).

This person is very good at managing her finances. Knowing this, I explained that there really are only a few ways to lose a bit of weight. And they are the same as being successful at managing money.

If you want to lose weight, you have to create a calorie deficit. That’s the bottom line. The law of thermodynamics is key. You have to consume less than you expend, or expend more than you consume.

If you want to save money, you have to create a financial excess. You have to spend less than you earn, or earn more than you spend.

Your options are:

1) Track your food/drink as you go along and stop when you’ve reached your spend limit (track your money as you spend it, or track your calories/macros in myfitnesspal or whatever you use)

Pros: this will help you work out where you are “overspending”
Cons: if you want to “save”, you’ll have to stop when you hit your target, which might be partway through the month/day if you are “spending” more than you thought

2) Pre-plan what you’re going to eat/spend and work to it (a financial budget, or a calorie/macro budget). This can be as rigid as a meal plan/precise spending plan, or as flexible as eating to macro targets/spending within various “categories”.

Pros: it will be very precise and you will likely “save” (or “lose” in the case of weight) quickly and accurately
Cons: it might seem boring and restrictive, depending on your mindset and personality

3) Wing it and hope for the best. This only works if you are a person who naturally doesn’t spend much money, or who earns so much you could never get into debt. (The weight loss equivalent is someone who naturally undereats, isn’t interested in food, or is so incredibly active that your calorie burn is through the roof).

Pros: if you’re one of the lucky ones, this will work for you. Until your lifestyle, income, or habits change!
Cons: it doesn’t teach you anything about finance (or nutrition) and you might be left wondering WTF when things eventually change.

Have my amazing analogies (!) helped something “click” in your brain? Funnily enough, the above conversation actually helped ME wrap my head around budgeting! I realised that if I can track my nutrition, I can track my spending. I’ve already made plenty of savings and changed some of my spending behaviour!

Do you reckon your success at nutrition/money could be transferrable skills?

How Reframing Weight Loss As Budgeting Helps Make Sense Of It All is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


I’m 6 Years Old (So I Guess I Should Actually Blog…)

April 26, 2016

WordPress informed me today that this blog is six years old. In blog terms, that’s positively elderly. But a blog isn’t a blog if it’s not actually updated… so here goes!
the fit writer blog nicola joyce 6 years birthday

I’m not sure I’ve got a lot to say…

…so – for anyone still out there and interested – here’s a stream of disconnected ramblings about training, food, and my newest bits of home fitness kit.

My most recent blog posts were about powerlifting. Specifically the BDFPA full power Nationals in February (so long ago already?) where I squatted 105, benched 60, deadlifted 150 (but I’d like it to be known that I got 160 to my knees!) You can read about that comp by clicking the clicky <<< .

Directly after that meet, I really wanted to do more powerlifting. I had grand plans:

1) the BDFPA single lifts nationals (initially just deadlift, but then I fell in love with squatting and decided to both deadlift and squat)
2) a BDFPA qualifier, ideally with my girlbro Charlie, to qualify early for 2017 nationals
3) nationals in 2017

But then various annoying logistical issues got in the way – travel, dog sitters, accommodation – and I had to make an executive decision.

I decided to shelve my powerlifting for the year (I’m happy enough with the progress I made between my qualifier and Nationals), and to revert to plan B: get back to training, do a late qualifier (Jan/Feb 2017) and see how I get on.

What am I up to now, then?

TRAINING

I’ve brought more bodybuilding aspects of training back into my life (although my training has definitely altered since my time focusing on powerlifting). I’m enjoying doing a wider variety of exercises, and paying attention to body parts I didn’t have the time (or the need) to train as a powerlifter.

Remember “notch watch” from way back when? (No, nor do I really and I wrote it.) Well, that belt has long since been thrown in the bin (it perished – literally – after languishing in the boot of my leaky car). But I still wear my Inzer belt for heavy squats, and I’m down 3 “notches” on it since the start of the year.

EATING

Things got a little wild there out in the hinterland of powerlifting, so yes I am dieting, but very slowly and extremely “flexibly”. No meal plan, no eating out of tupperware, and no cutting carbs (indeed no cutting anything). I’m just paying attention to what I’m eating, tracking it, and working to macros. Carbs are lovely and high, and I’m loving life! I’m dieting to macros, rather than to a meal plan, but it’s a very “flexible dieting” type approach. Carbs are no lower than 180, and I got above 200 twice a week. I think I might turn into a rice cake soon!
rice cakes bodybuilder
MOVING

Cardio has made a re-appearance, partly to support the slow diet and partly cos it’s Summer and it’s a lot nicer to ride my bike and pull my sled around the field in this kind of weather.

(Sled from Celtic Strength)

Bit of sled work out on the field tonight with my push/pull sled, handmade and custom painted by @simoncelticstrength 👌🏼

A video posted by Nicola Joyce ✒️💪🐶✌️ (@thefitwriter) on Apr 13, 2016 at 2:45pm PDT

No plans for events/comps/meets just yet. I’m really enjoying getting some structure back into my nutrition and training, and seeing where it leads me over the next few months. If I end up in shape, I have the option of UKDFBA (bodybuilding) later in the year. To all UKDFBA competitors and the general UKDFBA “fam” – I will be at as many qualifiers as possible this year, and I can’t wait to see you!

I’m better at updating my social media…

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I’m 6 Years Old (So I Guess I Should Actually Blog…) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


My off-season training and eats

October 13, 2015

Now I’m back in the groove of blogging, let’s talk bodybuilding.

Even though – as explained in my “comeback post” 😉 – I don’t have any definite plans for competing again, I’m still training and (mostly) living like a bodybuilder. Just not one that’s prepping for a show.

I’m in the gym 4-5 times per week, and still doing a BB-type training split. I experimented with a DUP-style training approach for a while (bench, squat and deadlift) but felt restricted and missed the variety and volume. I also limited myself to just one leg session per week for a while, but started pining for a separate hams/glutes session.

So, basically, I’m back to the same split as when I’m competing. The only difference now is that I’m a bit more flexible and intuitive. I always know which “bits” I’m training, and usually know what my main lifts will be, but I play it by ear after that. And if I end up training with someone, I’ll change things about to make the most of having a partner.

Here’s a sample week:

Mon: legs (squats/quads)
Tues: back
Weds: chest & triceps
Thurs:
Fri: shoulders & a bit more back
Sat: legs (hams/glutes)
Sun

I’m terrible about training arms. I find it really boring. I know, what a bad bodybuilder. I don’t mind training triceps to be fair, but bicep training bores me to death. I’ll usually tag along with Some Bloke in the gym (because almost every Bloke In The Gym seems to love training biceps). I also don’t really train calves although I know I should. I rarely train abs in the gym – I go boxing twice a week and we do a lot there, and I think my abs get a decent workout from deadlifts too.

In terms of cardio, I do a fair bit just because I really enjoy it. Don’t forget, I work at home and sit on my arse all day long. And I come from an endurance-sport background. So I actually like working up a sweat and doing huffing-and-puffing stuff.

I walk (fast) with the dog twice a day. I don’t count this as cardio, but I know some would (walking the dog before breakfast = “fasted LISS cardio” in bodybuilder-speak 😉 )

I then go boxing twice a week (Tues and Thurs) which is most definitely cardio, trust me! I try to get out on my road bike 2-3 times per week for 1-2 hours (although this is currently down to once a week given the short daylight hours). I run hill sprints, or flat sprints on the footie pitch out the back of my house… “sometimes”. At one point I was doing it twice a week. I really should get back to it. If my sister, or my friend Lou is reading this… let’s get a regular sprint session in the diary?

I do NOT go on my bloody cross-trainer! I put it in the shed when I moved house and have not re-assembled it.

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Current favourite sessions in order of bestest-most-favourite:

1) hamstrings (currently loving SLDL with dumbbells)
2) squats (currently loving/hating front squats)
3) back
4) shoulders

And least fave:
– chest (because my weights are trash and it frustrates me)
– biceps (because boring)

And the food side of my off-season/not competing bodybuilding life?

I try to eat “well” but I also refuse to impose any kind of restriction or rules on myself. Partly because I am living life, and not dieting for a show, and there’s much more to life (IMO) than eating to a set of rules.
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(I had birthday cake on my birthday this year for the first time since 2010.) But also partly because I know I’m still recovering (mentally) from several years of pretty restrictive dieting. I know not everyone is affected by the rigours of dieting but I was! And it’s taken me a while to get to a good place re: food and food behaviours, and it’s still a work in progress. I don’t want to upset the good balance I’ve manage to achieve. And I know that if I am going to grow and make physique improvements as a bodybuilder, I need to eat and not diet!

So I have moved away from the “bodybuilder” style of 6 meals a day, and I try to eat 3-4 times a day (basically breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack usually mid-afternoon). In other words, like a normal person.
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What’s probably not so “normal” is my meal choices. I still eat bodybuilder-type meals, some of which people may find a bit weird. Breakfast is often fish and veg, or meat. I don’t do cereal, toast or breakfasty stuff. I just don’t want to, I got out of the habit when I first started bodybuilding, and I like my way better 🙂

My lunches and dinners are some combo of meat, fish (I genuinely like fish – so would you if you lived on the coast and had access to the fresh fish I can buy straight off the boats), veg and spuds. It doesn’t have to be spuds, but I like them.
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I try to eat carbs with every meal, because I’m just trying to get my body used to a nice steady balance and consistent intake. No high/medium/low carb days and certainly no low-carb eating. Just a reasonable balance.

Bodybuildery foods I do not eat:
– oats. I don’t like them and they don’t like me *burp*
– asparagus. I like it but it’s so expensive and I don’t need to eat it.
– protein powder. I rarely need to. I just come home after training and eat my next meal.
– egg whites. At least, not just egg whites. I might use them to bulk up my eggs, but I no longer eat just the whites.
– nut butter. I don’t get the hype, and can’t remember the last time I had it.
– rice. I like it, but it’s a faff to cook and I just never really think about it.

Bodybuildery foods I do eat:
– eggs, broccoli, white fish, chicken, potatoes (although these days I usually go for the humble white spud rather than sweet pots), spinach and other leafy greens, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, coffee!

Things I have enjoyed reintroducing to my kitchen:
– fruit (I am still loving the joy of the simple Braeburn apple), bread, milky coffee, pork, lentils (yes, really), ice-cream, spaghetti, cheese (halloumi is a current fave).

Well, I feel like that was a pretty boring post. I’ve also realised that I’ve got out of the habit of taking photos “for the blog”, sorry about the wall of text (and recycled Instagram photos!)

Please let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like me to write about! Next up I’d like to tell you about my boxing sessions, or the bike events/sportives I’ve been doing, or perhaps (!) something about copywriting and work.

Whaddya reckon?

Here’s where you’ll find me:
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My off-season training and eats is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


Tested this week: Monkey Nutrition new Primal26 PRO whey protein isolate

March 29, 2015

Today’s fitness kit I’ve reviewed this week is a new product from one of my favourite supplement brands.

Primal26 new whey protein isolate review

I’ve reviewed a few Monkey Nutrition products on the blog. I like the brand for its honest, no-BS communication style and I like the products because they really are great quality (and they have some little gems in the range, like Moodulator the neurotransmittor/hormone support which really helps me sleep).

So when one of the Monkeys asked if I’d try the new Primal26 PRO advanced whey isolate, I said sure! I reviewed the previous version of Primal26 here, but this is a new and improved formula with digestive enzymes.
monkey primal26 whey review blog
I’m off-season at the moment, and have drastically cut down on the amount of supplements I take. Partly for cash reasons, but mostly because I truly don’t think many are needed when you’re eating well, sleeping well and getting enough recovery. Prep is perhaps a different matter. But in off-season, I really don’t use much at all. (Happy to blog about what I do use if anyone’s interested).

That includes protein powder. I work at home, the gym’s not far away. I usually just come home and eat a meal. But there are times when I need a protein powder after training – and on those occasions I will use whey isolate.

Why? Simply put, it’s the best form of whey available.

Monkey Nutrition’s Primal26 PRO whey isolate is a little different to most whey isolates. It contains digestive enzyme ProHydrolase, which helps with protein absorption. Whey isolate is always pretty gentle on the digestion anyway (much less lactose) but the addition of digestive enzymes to Primal26 PRO supports an increase in protein absorption (by up to three times) and helps ensure smaller, non-immunogenic protein peptides are formed. These help lower inflammation (as indicated by decreased CRP levels).

If you sometimes suffer bloating, gas or worse when you use whey protein, this product would definitely be worth a try.

Because your body is able to get more out of digesting this product, it means you can actually reduce your serving size without any loss of protein assimilation.

The product formula is clinically researched (you can read all about the clinical trials here, if you’re that way inclined) and

I tried Primal26 PRO in chocolate flavour, which is sweetened with Stevia and flavoured with organic cocoa. 26g pure whey protein isolate per serving – and that all-important ProHydrolase digestive enzyme.

Thanks for the supplements, Monkey Nutrition guys!

You can find Monkey Nutrition on Facebook and on Twitter.

Tested this week: Monkey Nutrition new Primal26 PRO whey protein isolate is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


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