Vegan Chat

Something I’ve long thought would be useful to write about but have just not had the knowledge to is training whilst eating a vegan diet.  What are good meal ideas, energy boosters, what do you even eat at all to get enough calories when your training hard?  So I’ve teamed up with Les Mills instructor (and vegan) Ellie Radford to get some practical tips for and one who trains often and is either already vegan or considering the switch.

Ellie is a Human Biosciences student from Crosby, Liverpool studying in Manchester Metropolitan Uni. She’s also a part time fitness instructor and teach Les Mills Body Pump and Body Combat.

Here’s what she had to say:

How long have you been vegan?

I’ve been vegan for just under 4 years! I went vegan in May 2016

Were you vegetarian before or did you go straight to vegan?

I was veggie before yeah. I was vegetarian for 10 months before I went full vegan, and I think that slow transition made it so much easier.

What made you make the decision?

Lots of things contributed! I always wanted to be veggie when I was younger but my mum always said no because all I ate was bacon and chicken nuggets haha! I wanted to be veggie because I didn’t like the idea of eating animals, so generally for ethics, but as I’ve grown up I’ve started to become conscious of the environmental impact too. Lots of my friends are also veggie or vegan, and one day I went to a vegetarian cafe with them. I literally didn’t like any food on the menu (fussy eater to THE MAX) but I ordered something and it tasted sooooo good. That was my first ever fully vegetarian tea and after that meal I realised I could actually do the whole veggie thing. Crazy, right? So yeah it was a whole bunch of reasons – ethics, environment, I started to think about eating more healthy (being veggie has definitely helped me with this), and ease due to friends being veggie or vegan.

Do you ever miss any foods?

Yes! When I first went vegetarian, whenever I got drunk I always ordered McDonald’s chicken nuggets haha. That’s why it’s a good idea to slowly cut meat out if you ever transition. I missed bacon a lot at first too. Now if my family is cooking it I still really appreciate the smell, but it’s been so long that I don’t miss the taste anymore.

What do you love about the vegan diet?

I love how good it makes me feel. I definitely noticed a big energy shift when I cut out animal products, but by cutting out products it meant I ate more veg so this isn’t necessarily due to meat being bad! Just a solid fact that we could all eat more fruit and veg, no matter what your lifestyle. I also love how accessible veganism is nowadays. I can eat in most places and that’s great! There’s been a huge growth since when I went vegan 4 years ago.

Are there any downsides / struggles?

Although veganism is becoming a lot more accessible, there could be more done. Food on the go is a big factor, but this is massively improving. Another big struggle is feeling like I have to justify to people why I follow a vegan lifestyle, and the fact that vegans get a bad rep in the media.

How do you find hitting your TDEE each day- is it hard? In other words- is it hard to eat enough?

It can be, especially being so into fitness I expend a lot of calories! Vegan food is very dense but low in calories, so you can get full pretty quickly. My tip for this is to eat little and often – spread little meals throughout the day instead of tackling 3 big ones.

What about protein?

This is always a big concern when a lot of people are considering veganism. Protein goals can be hard to meet if you’re eating lots of whole foods. Getting all your protein from beans and lentils is a bad idea – all that fibre is going to cause mega bloats and a very full tum! Still use these kinds of foods, but not for your whole protein intake. I get lots of my protein from meat substitutes such as soy products (tofu) mycoprotein (quorn style things) and seitan. Seitan is the holy Grail for vegans, but not a lot of people know about it! It’s made from an ingredient called vital wheat gluten and has a rubbery, meat-like texture. And the best part about it is it’s super protein dense – about 75g protein per 100g!

How are your energy levels for training?

As far as I know my levels are great. But I’ve never been into fitness as a non-vegan, as I only started working out 2 and a half years ago. Vegan fitness is all I know! I consume caffeine everyday and I eat a lot of food so that’s always good for energy haha.

Do you have any tips for people looking to start with a Vegan diet?

Take it slow! Lots of people rush into veganism, but that’s going to make it a whole lot harder to keep away from all the animal products. Start with one vegan day or meal per week, and then build it up.

Cut things out one step at a time, and don’t beat yourself up if you make mistakes. It’s hard at first, so making mistakes and tripping up is totally normal and human. It’s the fact that you’re trying at all which speaks volumes.

Be aware of the vitamins you’re going to be lacking. I take a daily multivitamin to take care of everything in one go, but B12 is the big one you need to watch for, as most of this vitamin is found in animal products. You can buy B12 vitamins from most supermarkets, and they’re included in most multivitamins, too.

Do you have any tips for maintaining energy levels when training?

“Quick snacks! When I’m training I go for snacks such as bananas, gelatine free jelly sweets, and donuts. Yes I said donuts. Vegan donuts!! Lots of supermarket donuts are accidentally vegan, such as Sainsbury’s and Co-op’s jam and custard donuts. These are an absolute lifesaver.”

Any secret amazing vegan foods?

I think my top two I’ve already mentioned in previous questions – seitan and donuts. Seitan for all your high protein needs, and donuts because when you’re vegan and finally realise you can eat basic supermarket donuts, it’s the best feeling in the world!

Some other things that are surprisingly vegan include hob nobs, Bourbons, lotus biscuits, Oreos, and peanut butter.

What are you Top hack / Tips

  1. Make sure you eat enough! It’s hard to not eat enough food when you’re vegan, so just try to keep on top of it.
  2. Be aware of any additional supplements you need to take. B12 is a biggie.
  3. One step at a time. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and just take it slow! Feel free to message me if you need help with anything!

So I think what I took away from my chat with Ellie is that actually the issues she has to think about in regard to energy levels with a Vegan diet are really not much different to the issues we all need to consider.

Whether you eat meat or not we all tend to have a quite polarised opinion on the subject but actually if you manage it well there’s no reason to struggle for energy or protein whilst eating a vegan diet, and it might not be for you, but if it is there’s plenty of support out there from people who are educated and working within the fitness industry and also have knowledge of how to eat well without eating animal products.

I think whatever our views on the subject understanding and talking about it and being open to one another’s viewpoints on the topic is helpful all round.

You can follow Ellie on Instagram at @ellieroseradford

2020 Goals

It’s not unusual to review your life at the start of a new year and decide what you are happy with, what you want to change, what you would like to achieve within the coming year.

Often we want to lose weight, earn more money, travel more and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of those things being motivators.

It’s understood by most people who work in any kind of field where motivation is key (fitness is a great example) that people are more likely to meet those goals when they genuinely want them for a real reason that they feel some real passion or connection to.

So if you want to lose weight you’re more likely to achieve that when the reason is improved health or to be able to play with your children than because you think you probably should be a size 10.

Not only are you more likely to achieve a goal when there’s a purpose behind it, it’s also more likely to make you happy.

What about when one of your goals is to help other people?

As a society we are sceptical of anyone offering help, the saying you don’t get something for nothing springs to mind. When people offer things for free we tend to immediately assume there’s a catch.

But sometimes, some people’s purpose does involve, in part, just helping people.

Again fitness is a great example of this. It’s an area that many of us who work in it feel real passion about. We want to help people, bust misconceptions and encourage. Now of course we need to earn money too, so we have to charge for some things. But equally a lot of us want to help and will happily provide a lot more for free than you may get in other sectors. Hell, it’s a little selfish because the feeling you can get for knowing you made a difference is some people’s purpose in itself.

So today I wanted to highlight one fitness professional who does just that, and this year has (in my opinion) stepped it up even more.

Lauren McDowell is a Les Mills instructor, who has long been a Tribe Coach (a position where instructors volunteer time to mentor other instructors) and is well known on the instructor social media groups for providing technique videos and feedback.

This year she seems to have stepped it up a notch. After asking on Instagram what people wanted help with she has already produced videos on Body Combat kick technique which anyone can view (check it out here).

Lauren’s Video

But beyond that she has also started producing regular simple and practical tips aimed at people starting out or getting back into a fitness journey.

None of this makes Lauren any money, but she believes and is passionate about encouraging others to participate in fitness and doing it in a way that you enjoy and makes you feel good.

I have the pleasure of working with Lauren as part of Jump 4.2, which has a massive support network for instructors, all helping each other out, and she is also always available to support everyone in that group.

Lauren is of course one of many fit pros I know who provide so much help to others beyond the selling of their services, and they do this because part of their purpose is to help others. They can keep helping people even when they get nothing concrete out of it because it serves their purpose and they feel they get value from it regardless.

So back to my original point, there’s absolutely zero issue with your goals being money motivated or weight orientated but to achieve them you need to be motivated, and to stay motivated those goals need to mean something to you. Sometimes what you realise means something to you might not make sense to anyone else, sometimes the value you get out of a goal may not be physical but mental. Having a clear idea of your purpose will however help you make 2020 a year you get closer to your goals and those goals making you happier.

Equally, your goal really doesn’t have to be what you’d normally expect. Could it be to help more people or help specific people, rather than get a promotion or drop a dress size? Would that create a fire in your belly that pushed you to achieve your goal?

You can of course have a mixture of goals and I’m not suggesting becoming Mother Theresa here, but thinking beyond the norm of New Years Resolutions could help you find something your truly passionate about.

I’m pretty confident one of Lauren’s goals is helping more people this year (I’m sure she has others). You can help her teach more people by checking out her Instagram here, and if you do Combat do check out her technique videos!

Lauren’s Instagram

Christmas JUMPer SHRED- Week 6

The final week of Shred saw us repeating the tests carried out in week 1 to check for progress over the last 6 weeks and an increase of calories to maintenance levels.

Despite having not done all training sessions over the last five weeks I’ve found my lifts increasing slightly across the board and despite probably (ok definitely) not being in a calorie deficit every week across the Christmas period I still discovered I’d lost almost 2kg in that time.  Not only that I feel like i look stronger (not leaner just a little more muscle definition)

To me this just goes to show that it isn’t hitting a gym plan as hard as you possibly can or measuring every morsel of food that passes your lips that gets you results.  Instead it’s just training consistently around your life and eating well without restricting yourself.  The fact I am going into Christmas Day having eaten practically every Christmas food going on a seeming loop for the last 23 days yet still feel fit, healthy and in decent shape shows what the power of just making positive choices as and when you can has.

Will I need to reign in the eating a bit in January?  Yes probably, I know I’ve eaten less homemade food and fewer vegetables the last few weeks and I won’t feel great if that continues for much longer, but that’s about as much of a change as I feel I need.

Are you going into January feeling like you need an overhaul or like you are already on track?  Hopefully it’s the later, but if it isn’t I would urge you to assess how you plan to approach your diet and training in the new year and to find something that allows you to feel in control regardless of how hectic life gets in 2020.

Christmas JUMPer Shred – Week 4

Week 4 contained two main challenges- wave training and increasing my NEAT.  Week 4 didn’t happen.

I’ve actually been working on increasing my NEAT anyway recently, but the way my week fell meant I not only did way fewer steps than normal (as opposed to actually increasing them) and didn’t fit a single one of the training sessions in.

On Monday night I headed to Edinburgh, which meant I wasn’t able to train Monday or Tuesday, Wednesday I had a PT session in the one hour slot I could have trained in and I drank far too much on Thursday meaning that there was no way I was going to be able to train Friday!  Essentially the break from my routine and increase in long distance travel meant I didn’t train as much as normal and definitely walked less.  It also meant I ate more fast food and ended up in a calorie surplus.

That’s not to say I had a terrible week.  I did still get four short training sessions in.  Knowing that I would not have the time to fit in the five shred workouts which all require around an hour, I instead did four short sessions designed by Ricky (between 15-30 minutes each), so I still moved and felt good about those sessions.  I also enjoyed my food, even if there was a lot more of the Christmas stuff and takeaways than intended, just being mindful of what I was eating probably meant that I still ate less than i would have otherwise.

Some weeks you will not be able to get everything you want done, some weeks you will eat more than you intended.  The key for me is not letting one week that didn’t go to plan throw me off track.  I could look at last week as a failure, a week I didn’t complete of the Shred (in fact I’ve been maybe 60% on this 6 week Shred so far, which is what I planned), I could say fuck it and decide to just start again in January.

Or I could do what I’m actually doing.  Look at this week as an OK week, a week where despite not training as planned or eating well I still did get some exercise in, I made the best of the time and opportunities I had and I didn’t let it throw me completely off kilter.

December is not the month to decide to do some kind of strict, I will be perfect plan. Equally December doesn’t need to be the month where you just let everything go and never train and eat and drink every single thing you see.  Throughout the year I’d encourage the use of moderation in training and eating and in December this becomes all the more important (and harder to do due to the amount of temptations out there).

So week 4- outstanding success?  No.  Did it keep me accountable enough to not feel like I’ve ruined all the progress I’ve made this year/  Also no.  That’s why I would always encourage taking part in programmes like the Shred- the accountability to yourself and others that it brings.

 

 

Jump Shred – Week 2

Week 2 focused on getting on with some training, focusing on our protein intake and practicing gratitude.

As I had some training sessions already that I wanted to do I knew I’d struggle to plan in an extra five visits t the gym (there are five sessions a week, with the aim of doing at least three).  I therefore decided to do some of the body weight workouts, meaning I could slot them in at home when I had a spare half an hour.

This is one of my key learnings over the last couple of years.  I’ve always been a little all or nothing, so if I don’t complete exactly what I planned I viewed it as a failed week.  This week I viewed my additional three body weight workouts on top of my existing training as an added bonus.  I did more than I normally do, so even if it wasn’t what I’d ideally wanted it was a win.  This is a great mindset tool for keeping yourself on track and not letting perceived failures lead you to quitting.

In addition I also carried on increasing my protein to 2 x each kg of my body weight.  Now I’ll tell you straight off, that’s a lot of protein – I was aiming for around 170g per day.  I actually ended up averaging around 180g a day.  I felt full and satisfied and found myself eating a lot less processed food throughout the week, leaving me feeling good.

I’ve been practicing the gratitude challenge for a while now- recording every day what I’m grateful for, what went well and who I complimented.  It’s a quick and easy way to encourage yourself to look towards the positives and overtime it starts to become a more automatic reaction to situations.

Overall this week kept me focused on the positives, got me to move a little more and eat food that made me feel good.  A great week from making just a few tiny adjustments, demonstrating small changes done consistently can make a big difference.

JUMPer Shred – Week 1

I’ve written previously about the fitness programme for group exercise instructors and enthusiasts which I’m involved in and have also completed myself, Jump 4.2.  For six weeks across November and December Jump 4.2 is holding  shorter 6 week Christmas Shred (the Christmas JUMPer shred- get it?).  So given that I think it’s always tough to stay on track with your training and nutrition at this time of year (I work in an office with never ending mince pies, chocolate and meals out over Christmas I thought it would be great to try and do the Shred alongside everyone taking part.

We started last week (well we technically started on 11th November when everyone got access to their learning platforms and lots of videos to watch introducing the Shred, how everything would work and covering some basics on training, nutrition and goals.

Week 1 then commenced with some ‘testing’ exercises to do (in other words some key exercises to do and record where we currently are with them) which I mixed in with my normal training for that week, calculating how many calories I should be aiming for (now I normally use an online calorie counter so calculating using the traditional calculation method was an eye opener as I came out with a lower amount than the calculators provide) and adjusting how many calories I was eating to fit in with this new target.  There was also some mindset videos to work through focusing on being productive with your time.  That’s going to come in useful over the next few weeks as I try and fit up to five workouts into my week at what is (as I suspect it is for most of us) one of the most hectic periods of the year.

Already after one week I feel good.  It’s always rejuvenating to refocus and I’m looking forward to getting some tough training sessions in, seeing if I improve with any of my weights (I’m not that competitive so this is something I struggle with normally) and hopefully using the accountability of the group to keep my mince pie consumption to normal person levels (note to self a whole box of mince pies and a family sized yule log is not a small daily snack even if it is Christmas!).

I’m going to keep you up to date over the next six weeks, partly to keep my self accountable and partly to hopefully inspire some of you to stay focused whilst still enjoying Christmas.

If you have any questions about what I’m doing or think you might be interested in taking part in Jump 4.2 in January let me know and we can have a chat about it.

How Much Is Enough?

Yesterday I set out to prep my meals for the week in 30 minutes.

It ended up taking an hour because I set all the fire alarms in my building off!

But still, 5 lunches, 4 dinners and a couple of snacks plus a fight with a smoke alarm in 60 minutes – that’s not bad going.

They aren’t the most impressive meals – I’m not being invited onto Masterchef anytime soon, but they will all taste good, are nutritious, are made up of real foods – carbs, proteins, fats – the lot.

My point?

It’s not that you don’t need to cut foods out of live off kale and air to be healthy (that wouldn’t be a bad point to be fair).

It’s not that if you’re busy through the week a bit of meal prep once a week is an amazing tool to keep you on track to your nutrition goals (again pretty good point).

It’s to manage your own expectations of yourself and your week.

Typically Sunday is my only day ‘off’. I know I need to prepare food for the week but if that took up my whole Sunday how often would I end up sacking it off?

So I accept that my food is a bit simple, nothing fancy, in exchange for only needing an hour to get it all done.

If cooking was a relaxing pleasure for me I’d possibly spend longer on it, but that’s not the case.

I try and apply this logic to my fitness as a whole – what would be ideal? How would the ideal affect my life? If it would make me stressed or resentful sod the ideal and find something more realistic to stick to.