“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.

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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.

 


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: 4 Weeks In

November 26, 2017

I’m blogging because it’s Sunday… but I don’t honestly have an update for you. I was just on the phone to my Mum and she kind of reminded me that I needed to write a Vegan Month update, and she asked me what I was going to say.

(Mum) “Are you finding it difficult?”

(Me) “No, not really. I’m enjoying all the cooking, and I like the things I eat.”

(Mum) “So you’re finding it easy?”

(Me) “Um… well, it’s just fine. Neither one thing or the other really. I’m not desperate for it to end, but I imagine I’ll be glad to eat a bit of salmon or something.”

(Mum) “Are you getting bored of the food?”

(Me) “No… well, yes maybe a bit. It’s not so much that I’m bored of what I am eating – because I genuinely enjoy lentils and all that kind of thing. But there have been a couple of times this week when I’ve just wanted… something different. Nothing specific.

(Mum) “I imagine that it would be different if you knew you’d never be eating fish/meat/eggs ever again…”

(Me) “Yes definitely. I actually think the ‘wanting something different’ feelings I’ve had this week are a bit of a throwback to bodybuilding prep. It’s not that you physically want anything specific. You just sometimes feel like you want to kick out against the ‘rules’.”

(Mum) “Anyway darling, so when you come up to watch “Hay Fever” in December, Liz might come with you. Ooh and I thought we could do some Christmas shopping that afternoon?”

(Me) “I should probably stop typing this phone call onto my blog now.”

So, to summarise that fictionalised account of a real phone call:

  • nothing to report
  • I’m still eating mostly the same kinds of foods I have been this whole time: lots of “curry type” concoctions with tofu, veg, and lentils/split peas
  • I discovered fava beans (obviously not alongside liver) – they’re really nice. I cook them like red lentils (with turmeric, garlic, red chili etc) into a kind of daal
  • In terms of training/bodybuilder life, I don’t know that this vegan diet is optimal, but I also can’t say that it’s been detrimental. I’m training really hard at the moment – 6 times a week, “legs” 3 times a week. I’m recovering fine, and someone in the gym commented that I’ve “lost weight” (I haven’t in terms of scale weight, but perhaps a slight bit of body recomp?)

So, only 4 days remain of Vegan Month! Am I planning a specific meal or snack for the 1st December? No. A salmon fillet fell out of the freezer earlier, and the thought was appealing. So maybe I’ll have that on the 1st, but then again maybe I won’t.

Let’s run through a list of non-vegan foods and see how I feel about them right now:

Milk: bleugh. o/10 I should add that I’ve been off the idea of dairy for ages, not just since Vegan Month.

Yoghurt: not fussed, would rather go without. 2/10

Cottage cheese: I used to love it, so I’m going to say 4/10 but the idea doesn’t appeal at all right now.

Cheese: depends what kind. A sharp hard cheese would be 8/10 but I’m not fussed on anything else (my family will disown me for this) I actually think the vegan cheeses are fine. They’re much more expensive than regular cheese.

Fish: I do miss fish. 10/10 for oily fish. 7/10 for anything else. 8/10 for tinned fish because it’s so convenient.

Chicken: meh. 2/10 I know it’s convenient and can be tasty but I can’t say I’m eagerly awaiting my first bite.

Red meat: yeah. 8/10. I think I will enjoy a bit of steak, and cooking beef mince dishes again.

Liver: hm, had to think hard about this one. 10/10 for the actual eating of it. But – and this surprises me – 2/10 for buying it, handling it, cooking it. I’ve never given this a second thought before.

One more thing before I sign off on this incredibly boring update. Seitan. I’m going to make it.

A friend challenged me to make it from scratch, and I said sure (assuming I wouldn’t be able to get hold of vital gluten or whatever the key ingredient is called). Well, more fool me because the local health food shop is going to order it in for me. It arrives on Wednesday (the 29th). So I shall be ending Vegan Month in a flourish of over-achievement: making seitan from scratch.

Got any good seitan recipes? Hit me up!

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 athlete interview: Tsuki Harris

November 16, 2017

Vegan Athlete interview: Tsuki H

As part of Vegan Month, I bring you interviews with actual (as in permanent!) vegans in strength and physique sports.

Today: Tsuki “H” Harris, a natural bodybuilder who has competed with drug-tested federations in both Figure and Physique/Women’s bodybuilding. Tsuki has won regional shows and placed top 5 in Britain. She’s also a Personal Trainer and group fitness instructor – so her vegan diet needs to fuel plenty of activity beyond the gym. (Tsuki’s nickname is the Duracell Bunny for good reason!)

Tsuki is supported by Creative Nature Superfoods for vegan treats and staples like cacao, hemp seeds, and her favourite bars (see below).

Find Tsuki on Instagram here.

The Fit Writer: How long have you been vegan, and what prompted you to go vegan?

Tsuki:

I have been vegan for about four years, but had been a vegetarian for a long time before then (since I was about six years old). What prompted me? When I started competing in bodybuilding, I followed the advice of PTs who were more experienced than I was (in terms of competing), and this meant I was relying heavily on foods like eggs and cottage cheese and whey etc. But my gut wasn’t too happy. I already ate raw and dairy free chocolate, didn’t drink milk, was trying vegan protein powders. So I thought I’d give full veganism a go. As I was almost there, a few vegan buddies inspired me to try too. I did miss the odd Nando’s halloumi (and the efficiency of an egg for protein), but noticed positive changes in my body. It also made me rethink some of those prep foods we all tend to use – the sugar free ‘calorie free’ gums and syrups, etc.

TFW: As a vegan athlete, do you find fuelling training/recovery/muscle gain challenging on a vegan diet?

Tsuki:

Personally I find it a challenge to eat enough when I’m not in competition prep. And that has nothing to do with being vegan! My active group fitness job means I need to eat a hell of a lot to gain any size. I can get away with a lot of carbs in my diet, and my body uses that energy very efficiently for what I do. I actually feel my recovery is a lot faster than it used to be, perhaps because of the anti inflammatory properties of this diet choice.

TFW: Can you tell me some of your go-to vegan foods or meals for pre/post training?

Tsuki:

When I started out as a vegan, I was taking supplements and hunting down protein powders then I realised how expensive that was getting (and wondered does it actually work anyway?) So now I just eat food! I only really use protein shakes when I need to bump up my protein without too many excess calories. For pre workout, I normally have something carb based like a bagel and nut butter, or porridge with random stuff thrown in. Post workout I eat a snack bar until I can get out of the gym and eat. Off-season I eat a lot of these peanut protein bars from Creative Nature – they’re yummy! If I’ve got prepared food with me, it’s normally rice or potato plus some protein like lentil or chickpeas and some veggies. It’s about creating a good balance of foods.

TFW: Do you eat to macros, and if so how easy is this to do as a vegan?

Tsuki:

>I do and I don’t. When I compete, I try to stick to macros so I can monitor my weight loss (ish). It helps me be sure that I’m not missing out on anything important. But normally I just focus on calories, and on make sure I’m getting enough for my active job and my workouts. I’m normally around 55% carbs (this is pretty easy to hit as a vegan). The protein is simple too, but I do have to put a bit more thought in to balance it all out with carbs and fats.

TFW: Have you noticed any changes between competing as a vegetarian and as a vegan?

Tsuki:

I competeed for my first two years as a non vegan. I then swapped from Figure to Physique, as I got a lot leaner in the off season and competitive season. I wonder if it was partly the diet? I find dieting easier now, because I diet on more carbs and on more food in general. I’m mentally more excited about my food, as I have variety rather than the standard chicken broccoli and rice. Dieting doesn’t have to be that way!

TFW: What’s the one thing you wish meat-eating athletes knew about life as a vegan athlete?

Tsuki:

It has to be the old “but where do you get your protein from?” line! I’m sure others get this a lot too. I wish people knew that we don’t just eat leaves – but nor are we all living off processed ‘fake meat’. I’m actually allergic to soya, and wouldn’t touch processed fake stuff anyway. We eat the same food as them – rice, potatoes, veggies and sauces and spices. It’s just that instead of the meat, we have chickpeas or lentils etc. You can thrive on this diet AND maintain muscle. As long as you eat well, eat enough and train properly of course!

Thanks for speaking to me about veganism and bodybuilding, Tsuki! Follow Tsuki on Instagram here, and her sponsors Creative Nature 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.


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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