My Vegan Month: The Round-Up

December 1, 2017

So Vegan Month has come to an end, and we need a round-up post. I would have written this yesterday but, you know, I was too busy making seitan from scratch… 😉

So. Let’s revisit my first post and answer my own questions…

Did I feel any healthier eating 100% vegan?

Hm. Yes, on balance I did. I always eat a lot of veggies anyway, cook all my own food, rarely if ever get takeaway etc. But what I noticed during Vegan Month is that I just bought less snacky sweet “excess” stuff. This was mostly because I couldn’t be bothered to read the labels on everything. I know there’s vegan chocolate, vegan icecream, etc. But I just kind of couldn’t be bothered. As a result, the amount of unplanned snacking definitely went down. I also ate a lot less in the way of sauces and dressings (because so many of them have milk/cream/egg). My diet was a lot simpler as a vegan.

Did I sleep better?

No change here. My sleep is largely dictated by the noise levels of my neighbours.

Has my body changed at all (composition and/or size?) 

Weight has stayed the same, but then again I did make an effort to eat the same calories as previously, so I wouldn’t expect a change. I do think I look a bit leaner, but this could be because of training frequency which has increased these past few weeks.

Is my training performance affected at all (better/worse)?

I’ve been training hard and feeling good. The only times I’ve felt shit in training is when I’ve been exhausted (see above re: noisy neighbours).

Did I feel hungrier?

No, not at all. In fact maybe less hungry?

How easy (or not) was it to hit my normal macros? 

My protein went down and carbs went up. It was difficult to hit higher protein (because vegan protein is all mixed in with carbs), and difficult not to eat higher carb (same reason). I was hitting around 250g carbs a day with no effort at all – just because carbs are kind of everywhere with a vegan way of eating. This is fine by me, by the way, I have no issue with carbohydrate! I felt/performed/look much the same or perhaps a bit better. Protein wasn’t low (lowest was something like 125g) but lower than pre-vegan diet.

What kind of recipes/meals did I end up cooking, and will I keep any of them in my regular diet?

Sorry, did I mention that I made seitan from scratch? I did? Oh. Well I also made lots of curry-type things with tofu and/or pulses. (Some of the recipes are here.) And I discovered fava beans, which I made into a kind of daal with turmeric and spices. I really enjoyed everything I made (I guess it would be odd if I didn’t, given that I made them?!) and will keep them in my regular diet. I will actually make seitan again!

Will I carry on with all or any of my vegan food choices after 30th November?

Definitely. No milk or yoghurt – the thought had been making me feel a bit “ick” for a long time before I did this vegan experiment. I’ll carry on using non-dairy milk. I doubt I’ll want yoghurt but if I do, there’s Alpro. I really dislike honey. I suspect I’ll go back to regular cheese. I will eat eggs and egg whites again. As for meat? I will eat it again, but I don’t have any specific plans. I didn’t get any meat out of the freezer last night ready to eat today. And I haven’t eaten any today. I am looking forward to a bit of salmon and – oddly – tinned tuna.

I hope you’ve enjoyed following this month-long eating experiment. If you have any questions for me, please ask and I’ll do some follow up posts.

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.

 

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Fitness kit I’ve reviewed this week: Smart Recovery bedding from The Fine Bedding Co

August 19, 2014

I love napping. And sleeping. And bedtime. Never more so than during bodybuilding prep when, frankly, the days just seem a little bit too long. (The rather trying extra bit seems to be between 3pm-6pm. What is the point of that part of the day? Unnecessary.)

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So, I was delighted to receive a lovely bit of kit to review from the clever people at The Fine Bedding Co: their brand-new Smart Bedding set. It’s the UK’s first “smart recovery” bedding and has been specifically designed to improve sport performance by boosting recovery (after all, the period of time we’re asleep is the biggest stretch of recovery time in our day).

Smart Recovery Bedset

Sports Sleep Coach Nick Littlehales was commissioned by The Fine Bedding Company to develop the bedding (a pillow and duvet – various sizes) who knows how important consistent, good quality sleep is to sports performance. Nick told me:

“Sleep is the longest recovery period in any 24 hours and is essential to achieving optimum performance – whether you’re a top athlete or simply want to get the best out of your day. But it’s not just about how many hours we sleep for, it’s about how many productive cycles of sleep we actually get and managing these cycles so that we wake refreshed both mentally and physically. Like all sports related equipment, bedding needs to be under constant management and development to improve an athletes’ personal best performance.”

The aim of this bedding is to enhance the amount of deep sleep we can get each night. The Smart Bedding has proved so popular with athletes like that they take it with them to major competitions and use it instead of the hotel bedding. Nick works with elite sport events, including the London 2012 Olympic games, and sports squads and teams including the FA and England squads, leading premiership football clubs, Rugby Union, Rugby League, British Cycling, the Sky Pro cycling team, cricketers, triathletes, rowers and golfers.


What’s different about the Smart Bedding?

– Smartfil fibres for breathability and temperature control
– very light
– the pillows are really plump and keep their shape
– non allergenic
– designed for comfort
– 10.5 tog (I had to ask them about this bit!) – “There is always a lot of tog talk when duvets are being discussed – maintaining core body temperature is vital to quality sleep. We chose 10.5 as the best tog for this duvet to help regulate body temperature throughout the year. Anything more or less in tog relates to certain people’s individual needs – whether they experience night sweats or are particularly cold in the night.” (Now you know!)

My experience of using the Smart Bedding?

I do struggle with sleep when I’m dieting for bodybuilding comps. I don’t know why – hormones, I suspect. I tend to wake around 2am and stay awake for an hour or two. This affliction definitely lessened the very first night I used the Smart Bedding. I won’t lie – it hasn’t stopped completely – but it is much, much better. The bedding feels amazing, really light and soft, but keeps me a nice temperature. The pillow is very comfy. In short, yes I’d recommend it. For the price, I think it’s definitely worth a try if you do any kind of sport, or just know how important sleep is to a healthier, more stress-free lifestyle.

I’ll leave you with
Nick Littlehales’s Top 3 Smart Recovery Tips

1 Check your mattress, pillow and bedding is giving the right support. “Your mattress should take your body shape and weight easily – almost as if you don’t need a pillow,” says Nick. “Get someone to ­analyse you lying on the bare mattress, in a foetal position on your non-dominant side (so if you’re right handed, lie on your left side). This is the natural sleeping position. If there is a clear gap of five centimetres or more ­between your head and mattress, or you feel your head dropping on to the mattress, then it could be too firm. Head raised out of line? The mattress may be too soft.”

2 Choose bedding that’s breathable, comfortable and sleep inducing. Nick makes up “sleep kits” for athletes with contouring, pressure sensitive mattress toppers, linen and climate control duvets and pillows from The Fine Bedding Company.

3 Think of sleep in terms of 90-minute cycles rather than hours. During each 90-minute cycle, the body goes through five stages essential to overall recovery. These include “light sleep”, “deep sleep” and “REM sleep” (when we dream).

Thank you, Smart Bedding people! What a lovely thing to receive. 🙂

You can find out more about the Smart Bedding sets online here at The Fine Bedding Co, or check them out on Facebook or Fine Bedding Co on Twitter. Sport Sleep Coach Nick is on Facebook and Twitter, too.

Fitness kit I’ve reviewed this week: Smart Recovery bedding from The Fine Bedding Co 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.


These are a few of my favourite things: the hydration edition

February 25, 2013

People will often ask me where I get my supplements, food, workout gear etc from. I have a few discount codes for some of my favourite companies, and am generously supported in one way or another by some others. Then there are the companies, brands and products which I just straight-up love, without discount codes or freebies! I thought I’d start a blog series telling you about these “favourite things” – and extending the discount code to you where one exists. All these “favourite things” posts are on one page.

elete water

We all know how important it is to drink enough water, whether we do endurance sport, strength sports or no sport at all (everyone needs to stay hydrated). It’s about more than just not getting thirsty. Proper hydration carries nutrients to cells, helps prevent muscle cramps, keeps you alert and focused, nourishes your skin, assists your body in digesting food, improves your sleep, helps your body recover after exercise (or injury/surgery) and even helps you maintain healthy hormone levels.

I admit I never used to pay a great deal of attention to whether or not the water I drank was actually doing its job. I was then recommended elete hydration drops (thanks Andy McKenzie) and haven’t gone a day without it since. It’s such a simple little product, but I honestly think it’s so important. Not just for people doing sport, for everyone of all ages (although certainly if you do train for sports then you should definitely be taking this product!)

elete is an electolyte product you add to water which contains all four of the key electrolytes (magnesium, potassium, chloride and sodium) along with 60 other naturally-occurring trace and ultra trace elements.

It’s 100% pure and natural and contains no sugar, sweeteners, additives, preservatives or calories (like most “sports drinks”). It doesn’t need to – you just add it to your water (or any other drink) and that’s it.

And it’s such good value for money (working out at less than 20p per litre of water). It comes in a concentrated form so you can carry it about with you if you need to, or just add it to your water at home.

elete has been scientifically developed and is backed by numerous bits of research and peer reviewed published studies. And it’s got the Informed Sport mark of approval.

I tend to add one serving to a litre of water in the morning, and then again to water which I make sure I drink straight after training. It doesn’t taste of anything at all (although you can get a citrus version, but I haven’t tried it). Full recommendations of exactly how to dose it are on the website.

Drink up!

You can find elete on Twitter and elete on Facebook as well as their own website (including research, testinonials and FAQs)

These are a few of my favourite things: the hydration edition 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.


The Wellbeing Guide to London

January 29, 2013

A little book arrived on my desk today: The Wellbeing Guide to London.

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How I wish this book had existed when I lived in London! It’s a wonderful resources for Londoners (or tourists) interested in finding the very best the capital has to offer in the way of health, wellbeing and detox hotspots.

The author, fellow freelance writer Sally Lovett, is a Londoner. As well as a writer, she’s a yoga teacher and founded yoga company “Stretching the City”. She wanted to share her favourite healthy hangouts… and so this book came to be (I bet she had a ball researching it!)

“You don’t need to escape to a spa in Thailand to unwind, nourish and revive,” Sally told me. “In fact, the sheer abundance and variety of brilliant places featured in the guide is testament to the growing prevalence of wellbeing on Londoner’s priorities and pockets.”

If you think London is noisy, chaotic and stressful, this book might just change your mind. The Wellbeing Guide to London encourages us to slow down and savour the city, as it takes us on a rather different tour to the typical mix of landmarks.

It’s divided into sections: central, west, east, north and south (<—- reprazent! I used to live in Herne Hill 😉 ) Within those sections, you’ll find eateries serving organic, vegetarian, vegan and raw food, yoga and meditation centres, studios, gyms, pools and health clubs.

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It’s beautifully illustrated with photography by Olivia Payne and large print, clear maps. There’s a listings section at the end of each “area”. Alongside the reviews and tips are articles from some of London’s leading wellbeing practitioners.

This handy little book is only ÂŁ10 and you can get it from publishers Vespertine Press. Now most of us have ditched the traditional A-Z for google maps, perhaps it leaves just enough room in our bags for this guide!

The Wellbeing Guide to London 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.


Revealed: the UK’s top 10 green exercise spots

May 26, 2012

Isn’t this weather amazing? It got me thinking about outdoor training in all its forms: biking (which I’m about to do myself), running, open-water swimming and classes like bootcamps. Do you train outdoors?

I was recently sent the results of a survey which showed that women in particular are most definitely ditching the gym in favour of exercising outside. There’s been a 52% increase in women exercising outside since 2007, apparently. Nearly half of the women surveyed are exercising outdoors 3+ times every week (with gym fees gives as the main reason).

The results of the survey, commissioned by sports bra brand Shock Absorber, suggest that there’s more to it than finances, though. 34% of the women surveyed said they actually feel they get a better workout when they’re outside because they find the surroundings so inspiring.

Intrigued by this comment, Shock Absorber delved deeper, partnering with Dr Jo Barton (a leading researcher in green exercise at the University of Essex) in a bid to identify the UK’s top ten inspirational green exercise hotspots. The criteria were: a balance of green space and water, stimulating views and proximity to wildlife.

I think we can all agree that a windswept coastline, lush green field or imposing set of hills make us feel exhilarated, uplifted and full of endorphins. So, what (or where) topped the list, according to the poll? I wonder if any of you are lucky enough to live near any of these…

White Cliffs of Dover, England (been there! Once or twice… LOL…)
Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve, England
Lunan Bay & Red Head, Scotland
Brecon Beacons, Wales
Killarney National Park, Republic of Ireland
Hampstead Heath, England (been there!)
Loch Tay, Scotland (been near there, very beautiful indeed!)
Downhill, Northern Ireland
Forest of Dean (been there! very hilly for cycling, trust me)
Powis Castle, Welshpool, Wales

Do any of you live near these places? Do you run, cycle, walk or hike there regularly? How do the views and surroundings affect your mood and the perception of your workout?

Dr Barton said: “Green exercise offers unique benefits compared to working out indoors. It significantly improves mood, self-esteem and restores mental fatigue. Added to this, people work harder when in a natural environment but perceive their workout to be easier. Training in the great outdoors also provides essential variety, especially with the changeable British weather – this maintains interest and reduces dropout whereas keeping fit indoors is more predictable.”

Shock Absorber has launched its “Get Out There” campaign to promote the benefits of exercising in the great outdoors and encourage women to share their inspirational places to train. By uploading photos to the campaign’s Facebook page, people can be inspired by others’ experiences and get out there to try new locations for themselves. You can see lots of lovely inspirational locations and participate in the campaign by visiting Get Out There.

Revealed: the UK’s top 10 green exercise spots 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.


Fitness kit I’ve reviewed this week: Nature’s Best nutritional supplements

May 22, 2012

Oh, hi! A few weeks ago, I wrote this blog post, an interview with Dr Sam Christie, in which she kindly gave some suggestions about nutritional/dietary supplements which might benefit me during my bodybuilding prep. She works as a consultant for Nature’s Best, and the company generously sent me everything she recommended. It’s taken me a few weeks to get through it all and give it a fair chance but here is my review of the products I was sent:

Vitamin C, Siberian Ginseng, omega 3 fish oils, MultiGuard Balance, Vitamin D and OsteoGuard.

First up, the Vitamin C. This stuff contains 500mg Vit C (as well as 50mg citrus bioflavonoid and 25mg rosehip powder) per tablet. Most people don’t get enough Vitamin C even if they supplement with a pill. It’s recommended that we actually take in upwards of 3g per day, particularly if training hard or under any other kind of stress (ha! ha!) So I’ve been chucking those bad boys back like there’s no tomorrow. Well, slight exaggeration. I have been taking 6/day – a total of 3g. I have been fit and healthy and devoid of any illness or infection, despite being under significant stress at the moment (training and other). Two enthusiastic thumbs up for this product!

Now, the Siberian Ginseng. In Dr Christie’s post, she suggested that ginseng was a good alternative to caffeine, giving all the benefits without the unwanted side-effects. I am a caffeine monster. I don’t care about the side-effects. I could bathe in coffee, rub coffee grounds into my eyeballs and swim through lakes of Red Bull and then dance around the house to Kiss 100 and still go back for more. Still, I realise that I have a duty to explore alternative ways of caning my adrenal system, so I accepted this unassuming little pot of green tablets – 1500mg each of top-quality ginseng – with grateful thanks.

The verdict: I love! Don’t get me wrong, it’s no double ristretto piccolo but I definitely feel it gives me a boost without the buzz. You know how caffeine can sometimes give you the jitters? *twitch* Well with this Siberian Ginseng, you get none of that. You take one tablet first thing and it just… keeps you going, somehow. I take it daily. It’s not a noticeable boost like with coffee or sugar or anything like that. But I bet I would notice the difference if I didn’t take it. I’ll be ordering some more!

Next up, the omega 3 fish oils. I have been sharing these with my training partner: yes, thefitdog has been benefitting from fish oils in his diet! He already loves coconut oil (video evidence), so I thought what the hell. He had a patchy bit of rough skin on his side and it’s almost completely cleared up since giving him 2 fish oil caps/day (it was bald, rough and hairless, now the skin is soft and the hair is growing back). As for me, well I do suffer with dry skin and so I like to take a good quality omega 3 oil. I do feel this omega 3 fish oils is one of the best I’ve used. It’s got 700mg of Omega 3s per capsule (including 360mg EPA and 240mg DHA), is very carefully made/purified and is made in the UK which I think is important for a supplement like this. I feel omega 3 supplements are important not just for skin but for hormone function and generally for a healthy diet. So, another thumbs up for this one. At ÂŁ25 for 360 capsules, it works out at under 25p/day* even if you take 3 a day (as I do). *I think. Somebody fetch my abacus!

OK next up are the MultiGuard Balance. It’s a multi-vitamin and -mineral with lots of extras for active people. Like chromium, said to help balance blood glucose levels, magnesium, zinc and alpha-lipoic acid (ALA). There’s also cinnamon in there, and it actually tastes cinnamony (not that you chew it of course, but you can still taste it). This is a good thing as far as I’m concerned. I don’t know whether or not this supplement helped me – it’s hard to tell when you take a few and don’t have some kind of testing/measuring thing set up – but it can’t have been a bad thing. And one thing I can say for sure is that I’ve been as fit as a fiddle and strong as an ox throughout the past few weeks despite a lot of challenges being thrown my way. I haven’t been ill once. Take THAT, challenges! In ya face!

OK, just a couple more: Vitamin D and OsteoGuard. Vitamin D is another important one to take, if you ask me. Our bodies can’t make it and we don’t get much of it from the environment (unless you’re reading this whilst sitting on a beach in Antigua). These tablets are a hefty 1000iu each – a good dosage. Important for bone density and immune health. The Osteoguard is also one for you if you’re concerned about healthy bones: 500mg calcium, 188mg magnesium , vitamin D and vitamin K. Everything you need for healthy bones, regardless of how good your diet is (apparently, 70% of women don’t get enough magnesium from their diets).

Right, I’m outta here. Dogs to walk, cardio to do. I hope that was helpful – in summary, I really feel these products are all super quality and great value for money if you break it down into “per day” costs. Pick and choose the ones which you feel you need most and enjoy feeling healthier!

Bye!

Fitness kit I’ve reviewed this week: Nature’s Best nutritional supplements 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.


Guest post: nutrition and supplementation Q&A with Dr Sam Christie

April 2, 2012

A while ago, I wrote a feature for Body Fit magazine about common fitness facts (and fiction). One of the experts who provided me with useful comments was Dr Sam Christie, an independent nutritionist who works with Nature’s Best
on the research side of things. Dr Christie mentioned that she is always interested in answering queries about nutrition from particular groups of people. When I said I was a competitive bodybuilder, she told me to send over some questions which she’d gladly answer.

Many weeks later (so sorry!), I’ve finally got round to airing her answers! Here’s our Q&A, I hope you find something useful within it, whatever sport you do and whatever your level of activity.


thefitwriter: What are your areas of interest?
Dr Sam Christie:
My research thesis focused on the effects of non-pharmacological OTC treatments for benign reproductive-age. I continued to collaborate with enlightened universities and hospitals on nutrient and plant-extract research, where we looked at conditions as varied as asthma, osteoporosis, fatigue, pre-diabetes, women’s hair loss and gut health. I have been a keen cyclist and dancer for many years.

tfw: What in your opinion are the most important supplements for female natural bodybuilders?
DSC:
Clinically, a mineral-heavy, stress and free-radical-offsetting multi-nutrient and herbal extract programme is a vital cornerstone of a healthy diet for natural body builders. Having said that, adequate omega 3 and use of menstrual-cycle normalising supplements (where necessary) are important too.

tfw: Our training tends to be very stressful on the body and we are often dieting alongside this. What do you think are the most crucial three supplements for anyone putting their body through stress?
DSC:
A good multi-nutrient, fish oil and calcium/magnesium supplement. See below for more of an explanation.

tfw: A particular area of interest to me is rest and sleep. Can you recommend anything for better quality sleep?
DSC:
Naturally, uncover any psychological and physiological factors alongside undertaking stress-reduction techniques. Alongside this you could use Valerian officinalis extract (2x400mg extract tablets 1 hr before bed), gallons of chamomile tea (two tea bags per mug – leave the bag in to infuse) and additional calcium and magnesium if a detailed diet-diary shows you to be lacking.

tfw: What is your opinion on caffeine as a pre-workout “booster”?
DSC:
If this just used to raise vitality and concentration, you could use an extract of Siberian Ginseng (around four hours before training) to get the boost without the side effects of caffeine, which some people won’t want or tolerate. Siberian Ginseng is the world’s best-known and most highly-researched adaptogen. Because it has a caffeine type of action, it really is best taken first thing in the morning. Nature’s Best Siberian Ginseng is a sophisticated extract that has guaranteed levels of the active ingredients (eleutherosides). Many people, particularly women, find that Siberian ginseng works better for them than Korean Ginseng. It is regarded as a more gentle preparation and, indeed, is often referred to as the female ginseng.

Dr Sam Christie’s supplement and dietary programme for natural body builders

DSC: On balance, we eat too much carbohydrate as a nation, particularly of the refined variety. Low GI (glycaemic index) carbohydrates (oats, brown rice, pulses) are perfect for sportspeople including bodybuilders at around 30% of total calorie intake. These slow-release forms of energy are terrifically filling and micronutrient-dense, full of glucose-stabilising minerals such as chromium, magnesium and zinc.

Magnify the priming effects of foods by using a multi-nutrient supplement: I recommend a minimum of 200mcg of chromium, 15mg of zinc and 400mg cinnamon extract (MultiGuard Balance contains a clinically-relevant supply of B vitamins which aid in cortisol normalisation), alongside Vitamin D and omega 3 fish oils. Also time-released Vitamin C with bioflavonoids, time-released; ÂŁ11.95 for 180 tablets). However, without the use of intense exercise-relevant supplies of calcium and magnesium, the adrenal gland may not be fully supported, and insomnia – along with other nasties like low afternoon energy -can kick-in. Research shows that many women in the UK fail to consume anywhere near adequate calcium and magnesium supplies from their food.

To offset exercise-induced inflammatory responses, don’t cook with sunflower oil or related products, as these are terrifically high in omega 6 fats. Eating oil-rich fish (omega 3 fats) three times a week and taking daily fish oil supplements will optimise your omega 3/omega 6 ratio and – along with a minimum of five portions of fruit and veggies a day – will ensure minimal inflammatory load from the diet.

I hope you found this blog post helpful. Thank you, Sam! I am going to be trying out Nature’s Best as recommended by Dr Christie, and I’ll report back in a few weeks.

Guest post: nutrition and supplementation Q&A with Dr Sam Christie 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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