The Problem With Bulking

Lift more weights, eat more food, do less cardio. 

Sounds pretty easy right? 

Well, I guess it is physically but it’s not so easy mentally.

To put it into context, I’m coming to the end of the first month of a 6 month plan in which I’m spending 3 months building muscle and then the last 3 months will be spent trying to strip body fat to increase definition and get that ‘toned’ look that I’m after. 

To build muscle, you need fuel. And that fuel is being supplied by nearly 2,000 calories each day of unprocessed food. That’s an awful lot of food, especially given that to meet this I’m having to eat mountains of vegetables, lean protein and lots of carbs squeezed into 3 main meals and 2 snacks each day.

The workouts are focused around lifting increasingly heavy weights and doing very little cardio training (apart from my daily commute and occasional cycles to see friends) which is very different to the high intensity stuff that I normally do. 

The result is that although I feel stronger (I’m PBing all over the place on squats, presses and basically everything), I also feel ‘bigger’. You’re probably thinking ‘well obviously, you’re building muscle’ but for someone who has spent their entire life trying to be smaller, this feeling is alien and not entirely comfortable. 

Watching my abs disappear day by day, the scales creep up slightly and my legs getting bigger is actually bloody difficult. It goes against the grain and it makes me feel out of shape bizarrely. It’s having an effect on my willpower too as I’ve never had to eat more to hit calorie goals before, so I’m thinking ‘well I might as well have 3 biscuits, it’ll help me hit my calories’. 

As I keep telling myself (and my friends and clients), you have to trust the process and getting control over your willpower and brain is part of this process. So I’m making sure that I eat plenty of ‘clean’ foods and hitting the gym to try and avoid the dips in willpower. 

Most of all, I’m accepting the fact that I’m struggling and that is ok. Not everything is easy and I know that I will appreciate the results a lot more because of the battles that I’ve been through. 

The Clean Eating Revolution

You might have heard people talking about ‘clean eating’ but what does it actually mean? Well, there’s different levels of clean eating. 

For example, you could go hardcore and do a Whole30 which cuts out all sugar, dairy, legumes and grains or you can do a slightly more lifestyle-friendly version, which is what I’m doing.

The rules are very simple. If it came out of a packet and has been processed far beyond its natural state, don’t eat it. So that means trying to steer clear of:

Bread (especially white or over-processed types)

Pasta

Cakes/biscuits and anything sweet or dessert like

Most dairy (minus a bit of feta or greek yogurt here and there)

‘But what is there left?’ I hear you cry. Plenty is the easy answer. You can eat all vegetables (although try to stay away from canned veg and beans as they often have stabilisers and other chemicals in them), meat, fish, brown/basmati rice, sweet potatoes, fruit, dark chocolate (with 3 ingredients or less), nuts etc. 

image

A typical day of clean eating:

Breakfast – green smoothie (½ banana, handful of berries, 10 pieces of cucumber, a big handful of spinach or kale, 1 stick of celery, juice of ½ lemon, 2 tsp flaxseed, 1 tsp chia seeds)

Morning snack – a few almonds or macadamia nuts

Lunch – baked chicken breast with spices, baked sweet potato, steamed green vegetables, raw spinach, tomatoes, cucumber, ½ avocado, drizzle of olive oil

Afternoon snack – 100g greek yogurt with a chopped apple or berries

Dinner – 2 egg omelette with mushrooms, pepper, spinach and a side salad (spinach, cucumber, spring onion, cucumber, pumpkin seeds, olive oil, lemon juice)

Evening snack – 1 square of 90% dark chocolate

image

When I’m focusing on eating ‘clean’ foods 80-90% of the time, I feel less bloated, my energy levels throughout the day stay much more constant rather than peaks and troughs and I feel stronger and more focused in the gym. It’s also really good for building lean muscle without increasing body fat whilst doing the right sorts of workouts. 

I eat out at least once a week with friends and the key to sticking to your clean way of life is to pick things off the menu that are as unprocessed as possible, preferably without sauces which are often loaded with salt or sugar. If you do want to indulge yourself then go for it but try to limit it to once a week if possible. 

Let me know how you get on! 

Perfect Flour Free Pancakes

Everyone’s going mad for pancakes at the moment and quite rightly. They’re delicious with sweet or savoury toppings and they make the best brunch ever. But they’re not always the healthiest choice on the menu, especially if you’re trying to eat gluten free or dairy free. 

So here’s my never-fail recipe for healthy and nutritious pancakes, I promise that once you try these you won’t miss the ‘normal’ ones!

Ingredients (makes one serving = 3 pancakes)

2 x medium eggs

1 x large ripe banana

½ scoop of your preferred protein powder (optional)

½ cup of raspberries/blueberries/strawberries (optional)

1 tsp organic coconut oil 

Method

Peel and mash the banana with the 2 whole eggs until the mixture is batter-like. At this point you can add in your half scoop of protein powder (I find that vanilla works best) and your berries (I used raspberries). Mix the batter again to make sure all of the protein powder is mixed in thoroughly. 

Just like with normal batter, leave it to thicken for 5-10 minutes in the fridge. In the meantime melt the coconut oil in a small frying pan but watch out, coconut oil gets smoking hot very quickly! 

Pour a 3rd of the mixture into the pan and swirl the pan to make sure you’ve got a nice even spread. 

Once the mixture starts to bubble slightly on top flip the pancake with a spatula and then it should only need 45-60 seconds on the other side.

The pancakes are perfectly delicious as they are or you could add some extras. Some suggestions are:

– dairy-free coconut yogurt or goats milk yogurt

– turkey bacon and agave syrup for that American feel

– fresh fruit (mango goes particularly well)

– chopped nuts and fruit compote

These were mine the other morning simply with some added blueberries.

Amazingly, this photo has gained the most likes out of any of my posts on Instagram… Just goes to show the power of pancakes! 

Nutrition (for recipe listed above including blueberries on top)

Calories: 420

Carbs: 45g

Protein: 23g

Fat:17g

Let me know if you try them and what you think x

Healthy Comfort Food

It’s like I jinxed the weather! All of a sudden winter has arrived in London and it’s bloody freezing… And when it gets cold all I want to eat is comfort food while sitting under a blanket with the heating on. But comfort eating doesn’t have to mean letting your clean eating plan go, here’s my hints and tips on how to ‘healthify’ some of my favourite recipes. 

Healthy and comforting dinners

Minced meat is one of the most comforting dinners in my opinion, you can make it into so many things! Lasagna, shepherd’s pie, bolognese, chilli, the list is endless. 

Shepherd’s pie:

Shepherd’s pie has got to be made with lamb mince so why not lighten up the topping by using a mixture of sweet potato and carrot rather than white potatoes? Simply boil 2 large sweet potatoes with 1 large carrot and mash with a tablespoon of coconut oil (to give it that creaminess) and some salt and pepper. Top your cooked mince with the sweet potato/carrot mixture and bake for 45 minutes until bubbling and delicious.

Chilli:

For a start, try lean turkey mince rather than beef to make your chilli, you won’t be able to tell the difference, I promise! It’s still high in protein but it’s naturally lower in fat. Then, once it’s ready, serve it with some roasted sweet potato wedges and a big pile of steamed greens rather than white rice. 

Healthy snacks

Sometimes you just need a snack but an apple or some celery sticks just won’t cut it (pretty much every afternoon right?) and as snack time is one of the easiest places to slip up, make sure you’re prepared. Here’s a couple of ideas… 

Popcorn:

Corn kernels are very cheap to buy in the supermarket and so ridiculously easy to make that you’ll wonder why you ever spent money buying any other popcorn! Put a handful of corn kernels (it makes more than you think!) in a microwave-safe container, cover loosely with a plastic lid and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Take out the popped kernels and put the remaining unpopped kernels back in for another 2 minutes, continue this process until they’re all popped. You can then sprinkle with salt, coconut sugar or a teaspoon of butter and cinnamon, basically whatever you want! But keep the toppings light otherwise you’ll undo all the good work you’re doing by making your own popcorn. 

Frozen yogurt:

This one is so simple! Buy some yogurt (I prefer full fat goats milk yogurt) and freeze it. See, I told you. Just remember to stir it every 20-30 minutes so that it stays creamy, or use an ice cream maker if you’re lucky enough to have one. Again, you can flavour it with anything. I like a scoop of chocolate or vanilla protein powder, some crushed raspberries or if you’re feeling posh you could make a syrup of agave infused with basil and lemongrass to mix in. 

So there you go! Although we all struggle with staying on the straight and narrow when there’s biscuits and cakes in the office, or the allure of the takeaway menus in the drawer, you can eat comfort food to soothe your soul and still stay healthy. 

What recipes would you like to see made healthy? 

Winter Warmer Soup Recipes

Although London seems to be basking in very late Indian Summer, my mind is starting to zoom ahead to some winter warmers that will be perfect for cold nights. 

My favourite quick and easy go to dinner is soup. You can tweak the recipes each time, throw in whatever you have in the fridge and make it in huge portions which will fill your freezer. 

Basic soup base:

1 x white or red onion (finely chopped)

2 x cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

2 x sticks of celery (chopped)

1 x carrot (chopped)

Sautee all of the above in 1 tbsp of olive or coconut oil and then add in 1 litre of vegetable or chicken stock, bring to the boil and then simmer for 15-20 minutes. This makes a delicious and light broth that you can customise in thousands of different ways. Here are some of my top picks…

Carrot and coriander

– Basic soup base including a thumb size piece of ginger + a whole bag of carrots (chopped) + a large bunch of coriander

– Simmer with plenty of black pepper and half a can of coconut milk

– Blend until nearly smoothish, I like a few chunks in it! 

Tomato

– Basic soup base + 1 can of chopped tomatoes + 1 tsp agave nectar + 2 tbsp tomato puree

– Simmer and blend if you want it smooth

– Serve with a swirl of homemade pesto or a dollop of greek yogurt

Green Goddess

– Basic soup base (minus the carrot) + 1 chopped courgette + 1 bag of spinach/watercress/kale + small handful of chopped mint + 2 handfuls of peas

– Simmer until everything is cooked through and blend until smooth

I’m going to do a series of these quick and easy Winter Warmer recipes, are there any that you’d like to see on here? 

Food Cupboard Essentials

Picture the scene…. You’ve had a long day at work, you’re tired and hungry. You come home, open the fridge and, shock horror, it’s empty! 

What do you do? 

It’s so easy to pick up the phone and call your local Chinese or Indian takeaway shop but you had your cheat meal for lunch and a greasy plate of questionably-sourced food just isn’t going to cut it. 

Here’s my top-10 list of things that you should always have in your cupboard or freezer to avoid these disastrous evenings:

1) Gluten free pasta – simply boil and mix with a can of tuna, a tbsp of pesto or pasta sauce, some frozen vegetables and a few pumpkin seeds for a quick and healthy comfort-food dinner

2) Pole and line caught sustainable tuna – canned tuna is never as good as fresh tuna but it can sit in the cupboard for months and it provides a great hit of low-fat protein with a salad or mixed in pasta as above

3) Quinoa – cook with some organic vegetable bouillon and then add in whatever you want. It’s a great source of vegetable protein, filling and a healthier alternative to white rice

4) Frozen vegetables – I always keep frozen soy beans, peas and spinach in my freezer to add to pasta sauces or defrost to add bulk to a salad

5) Frozen fruit – cherries, berries, bananas, mangoes, the list goes on! Great for putting in smoothies, porridge or just munching when you want a cold, sweet treat

6) Oats – If you’re really desperate, porridge makes a great dinner. 25g of oats with a sprinkle of seeds or nuts and some frozen cherries, all cooked with water is delicious

7) Canned beans – I love adding cannellini beans, kidney beans or chickpeas to a salad for a serving of plant-based protein. They’re also really filling,which is great when you’re starving! 

8) Frozen soup – When you’re making soup, make enough to feed a small army and then freeze what you don’t need in individual portions. It can be defrosted very quickly and is perfectly satisfying

9) Thai curry paste – if all you have is scrag ends of vegetables, stir-fry them with some Thai curry paste and you’ve got a spicy and warming dinner

10) Frozen wholewheat tortillas – this is for when you’re really desperate… defrost a couple of tortillas, spread some tomato paste on them and top with grated cheese and whatever else is left in the fridge. Ta dah! Healthy pizzas! 

What’s your favourite food cupboard dinner? 

Quick and easy dinners

The last thing I want to do in the evenings during the week is spend hours chopping and then cooking food, especially if I’ve just worked out. My rule is, if it can’t be on the table within 25 minutes then it’s a weekend dish. 

So here are my top 3 quick ‘n’ healthy dinner recipes..

1) Asian spiced salmon with vegetable stir fry

1 x fillet of organic salmon (approx 200g)

Spices (five spice, cumin, garlic)

Assortment of vegetables (aubergine, onion, pak choi, mushrooms etc.)

Gluten free soy sauce

1 x teaspoon Thai green curry paste

1 x tablespoon coconut oil

Melt the coconut oil in a wok and add in the curry paste. Fry the paste until it smells amazing. Chop all of the vegetables (you can be fancy and julienne them or just cut them into cubes all roughly the same size) and throw them into the pan. In the meantime, season your salmon fillet and roast in the oven at 180 celcius for 10-15 minutes. It should still be pink and flakey. Serve in a bowl with a splash of soy sauce.

image

2) Simple salad

1 x handful of lettuce leaves

4 x cherry tomatoes

8 x slices of cucumber

1 x spring onion

½ x sweet pepper

1 x cooked beetroot

150g of protein of your choice

Dressing (2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, squeeze of lemon juice, 1 tsp wholegrain mustard, pinch each of salt/pepper/sugar – shake up in a jar and keep in fridge)

Chop and combine all ingredients. Dress with 1 x tablespoon of dressing

image

3) Quick Tuna Stew

1 x tbsp olive oil

Assortment of vegetables (onion, aubergine, courgette, peppers)

1 x tin of tomatoes

1 x tin of pole & line caught tuna

Spices (cumin, garlic, chilli flakes, paprika)

1 x handful of green beans

5 x brussel sprouts

Chop up the assorted vegetables and cook gently until soft. Add in tin of tomatoes and tin of tuna with spices. Allow to bubble for 15 minutes. Steam the beans and brussel sprouts (I use a bamboo steamer, it’s brilliant…) and serve everything in a big bowl. This is like a big tummy hug in a bowl!

image