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.

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“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 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.


Vegan Baking With Protein Pow’s Pea Cooking Mix

November 15, 2017

Banana & Cacao Nib Squares (Vegan – obvs – and Gluten Free)

I couldn’t let Vegan Month go by without attempting some baking. I used to bake “protein” things all the time: bars, cookies, muffins etc. But over the past few years of bodybuilding prep, I’ve got out of the habit (bored of it, I think!)

So my recipe-creating skills were a little rusty for inventing a vegan baking recipe!

Add to that the twin challenges of 1) no eggs allowed and 2) only the scrapings out of the bottom of the coconut oil tub remaining… and things were about to get interesting. (For “interesting”, read “probably dry and crumbly”).

However, I forged ahead with my zero eggs and probably-10g-if-that oil.

  • I knew I wanted to make a banana bread type creation
  • I knew I didn’t want it to be too sweet (just not my thing)
  • And I knew I wanted to use Protein Pow’s Pea Protein Cooking Mix as the base (because it’s awesome, and vegan, and does half the work for me!)

The Protein Pow “Pea Protein Pow Mix” is gluten free, vegan, and contains just five ingredients: pea protein powder, GF oats, coconut flour, coconut sugar, and vanilla beans. I’ve been using it during Vegan Month to make mug cakes, and as an addition to breakfast oats. But I was keen to bake with it, since that’s really its forte.

Here’s what I made: Vegan Pea Protein Banana & Cacao Nib Squares

Ingredients:

  • 2 large bananas (240g, FYI) – mashed
  • 25g ground flax mixed with water to make a “flax egg” (apparently that’s a thing)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 300g Protein Pow Pea Protein Cooking/Baking Mix
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 40g cacao nibs
  • 300ml almond milk (that much because the batter was really dry… !)
  • 10g coconut oil (the batter reeeeally needed more, but I had the end of a tub so I microwaved that and used what I could pour out) (then gave the empty tub to the dog)

Instructions:

  1. Make the flax “egg” by mixing the flax with water and leaving it aside
  2. Mash the bananas in a bowl
  3. Combine the Protein Pow mix, cinnamon, and baking powder in a big bowl
  4. Mix the cacao nibs through the dry mix
  5. Mix the flax egg into the mashed banana
  6. Add the banana/flax to the dry mix and form a batter (add the milk as you go)

I used a silicone baking tray but you could use muffin cases or whatever you want. Pour the batter into whatever you’re using and bake for about 30 mins at 180*C. Let it cool in the tray then cut into 9 squares.

It looked a bit dry but kind of firmed up as it cooled. The squares held their shape just fine once I cut it into 9 portions.

The verdict? Tasty, actually surprisingly moist and un-crumbly, not too sweet, perfect for a snack with a coffee. The fibre is pretty high (oats, coconut flour, cacao nibs…) so I probably wouldn’t have one before training, but they’d be good for after. I made nine squares out of this recipe but they are pretty big (espresso-cup saucer below for scale… what do you mean you don’t have espresso cup saucers?) – you could definitely cut them into 12 (for fewer cals per bar) or leave out the cacao nibs (?) if you wanted.

Nutrition per 1/9 recipe:
Cals 202
Pro 13.4g
Carb 24.3g
Fat 6.8g

Have you baked or cooked anything with the Protein Pow Pea Mix? Let me know – I’ve got more here and am keen to 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.


My Vegan Month: 2 Weeks In

November 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What else do I have to report?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bye!

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


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.


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