This protein-packed blueberry and banana smoothie bowl is ready in less than a minute and is simply delicious. I’ve been unwell this week, to the extent that just standing is difficult, so the only food that I’ve been able to prepare is of the quick and easy variety. That said, I’m trying to feed my body nutrients so I wasn’t going to compromise with an easy, but nutrient poor, breakfast. The frozen ingredients in the recipe make this breakfast nice and cold, which soothed my throat a treat.
I’d recommend this smoothie if you’re ill, or if you’re not because it really is good. I’ll be having this again on a busy work day.
1 banana (frozen is ideal but fresh is absolutely fine
1 scoop of vanilla protein powder
A handful of frozen blueberries
2 Tablespoons of greek yogurt
150-200 ml milk of your choice
High protein granola (or whatever else you fancy)
Roughly chop the banana into your blender (I use a Nutribullet for smoothies)
Throw in the blueberries and yogurt then top with milk
You may have heard people into fitness talking about NEAT. Not as in, “that’s neat!” Or “the gym was really neat and tidy”, but more as a “getting my NEAT up”, “#neatup24/7”, “it all count’s towards the NEAT”. But what is this NEAT?
NEAT is an acronym, it stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. It’s a bit of a mouthful and you can see why it’s been shortened. Luckily, it sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is. NEAT is basically is the energy that you use for everything that you do apart from eating, sleeping and ‘official exercise’. So this means that it includes walking places, taking the stairs, fidgeting, cleaning – literally everything else. It’s just movement in a non-exercise setting.
NEAT is a crucial tool when it comes to losing fat because you only have a certain amount of hours in the day where you can go to the gym or do an official workout. However, lots of small activities such as walking place and taking the stairs genuinely do mount up…and when I say mount up I mean that they actually add up over the course of the day to more than you would do in the gym. It’s an invaluable tool to burn calories and to get you into a calorie deficit – which is the only way to lose fat (*without surgery which I’m not advocating here).
So next time you’re feeling lazy and parking close to the supermarket, remember that arguably NEAT is more important than ‘official exercise’ and park further away. But let’s go one further than that, why not make a pledge that this during March you’ll pick one thing to do that will increase your NEAT? I can’t do too many stairs at the moment due to an issue with my knee (which would be the obvious one in my nine-storey workplace), but I am going to get up and talk to people rather than emailing where I can.
Let me know what you pledge to do to increase your NEAT in the comments below!
As I’m in a long-distance relationship, I’ve had to get a fair few long-haul flights over the past few years. Here are some hints and tips that I’ve picked up to arrive healthy and happy.
I’m pretty good for staying hydrated I have to say. I’m one of these weird people who actually likes drinking water. However, the day before a flight I always make sure that I drink plenty of water as well as making sure that I drink plenty of water on the day of the flight itself.
Now, plastic bottles are the scourge of the planet but did you know that in any airport there is always somewhere that you can refill your own water bottle? I take one of those metal bottles (which keeps water nice and cool for 12 hours) and fill it up. I make sure that I drink a bottle full while I am waiting for the flight to be called and then fill it up right before I get on the plane. I make sure that I have two bottles of water for the flight and then take up the offer of drinks on the plane. Generally, I avoid the free alcohol (unless it’s a night flight when I’ll have a glass of red wine with my dinner) and drink juice to hydrate. I rarely turn down a chance for a drink.
Don’t Feel Obliged to eat the Plane Food
So people have mixed opinions on plane food but I think that we can all agree that in cattle class it’s not the best. The food also tends to be fairly low on protein and has, on occasion, made my stomach feel bad by the time that I’ve landed. I sometimes eat the plane food but I tend to feel better on the flights where I stick to my own snacks. I like to take fruit, yogurt, nuts (unless it’s a nut-free flight – although I’ve only ever been on one) and protein flapjack/bars. This way I feel like I’ve had some vitamins and minerals as well as protein. But make sure that you are mindful of portion sizes! We tend to bloat on planes so you won’t be able to comfortably eat as much food as you usually do (which is why plane food portions are so small).
Remember that if you’re on a really long flight that you might want to reduce your fibre intake a little to avoid bathroom embarasment and to spare everybody else!
This can make the difference between feeling fresh when you land and feeling a bit gross. I take a makeup remover wipe, a mini hydrating spritzer, a thick moisturiser (only because my friend managed to talk me out of taking one of those sheet masks), anti-bacterial gel for hands (I’ve been known to wipe the tray in front with this and a tissue), hand cream, perfume, toothpaste and a toothbrush. I also take makeup if I’m trying to impress and apply it about an hour before landing (before the descent!).
You’ll have to experiment with what is best with your hair but I find that if I straighten it then coil it up on the top of my head in a topknot and leave it for the duration of the flight, when I let it down is is smooth yet wavy with nice volume.
Okay, so this is pretty hard to do on a plane. Before the flight I try to walk as much as possible, as in laps of the departure lounge. You are going to be sitting down for hours and when you arrive you may be tired so it’s worth trying to get those steps in early.
When on the flight, try and do some stretches to make sure that the blood is flowing. I like to wiggle as much as I can and contract and relax muscles just to keep the blood flowing (I also wear compression socks). When you get up to go to the toilet, try to do a few stretches while you’re up – you’ll feel so much better when you’re back in your seat.
Be mindful of Time Zones
So jetlag can really screw you over. I am so sensitive to it, it’s a nightmare. Keep an eye on the time when you’re on the flight and you may want to set your watch to the time that it is at the destination (although be careful about doing this when you have a connecting flight because you don’t want to get confused and miss the connection!).
As much as you can, try to eat at meal times at the destination and sleep when you would be sleeping in the destination. Sleeping on a plane is hard (especially if you’re tall). I find a neck pillow indispensable (in addition to using the little pillow that most airlines provide) as well as a large thick scarf that can be used as a blanket. I use the airline’s blanket to put around my lap (as who knows how clean they are?!) and put my scarf around the top half of my body. To block out what is going on around me I use an eye mask and ear plugs.
So those are my main pieces of advice for long-haul flights – what do you suggest?
I’ve made this breakfast a couple of times on the weekend recently when I have a bit more time to make a leisurely breakfast. However, you could make this on a weekday morning and cook it while you’re getting yourself ready. This recipe makes two portions, but it’s good to box up and save the other half for the next day – which makes it the ideal portable breakfast. It can be eaten hot or cold, but I prefer hot with a big dollop of Greek yogurt.
If you find that you’re often rushing in the mornings, you could double up the mixture and cook it for a bit longer to make sure that you have a filling, healthy breakfast for you to eat during the week.
1/2 Cup of oats
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
fruit – I’m using up homemade mincemeat that I made at Christmas time but blueberries or raspberries and coconut would be nice
1 teaspoon of honey
2/3 cup of milk
Preheat the oven to 180C
Slice the banana in half lengthways and mash the other half of the banana
Beat the egg and add the milk
Add the oats, banana, baking powder and fruit to the egg and milk mixture
Place the other half of the banana on to the top of the mixture and drizzle it with honey (you can leave this out if you like or use maple syrup instead)
Add to an ovenproof dish and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown
So you’ve decided to count your macros (or perhaps your PT is making you) and you’re struggling to hit your protein goals. The struggle is real. I think that anybody who has transitioned from just eating whatever to eating a high protein diet has struggled with this, and I know that I really did to start with. I remember texting my friend to ask whether it was acceptable to drink four protein shakes in one day (not to be recommended btw).
So I thought that I would share my tricks and tips for hitting your protein goals, I hope you find it useful.
Eat Protein for Every Meal
It might seem a bit obvious but I say it anyway. You want to eat protein at every meal. Not only is this better for maintaining muscle (your body will thank you for a constant stream of protein), but it’s better than getting to 6pm and realising that you need to eat seven chicken breasts for your dinner to hit your goals. If you have a meal with little protein in it, you’re going to struggle to catch up the rest of the day.
You will need to base your meal around a lean protein source and then balance the rest of your meal around it. It is hard to start with but it does get easier with time. Eventually, you’ll be able to look at the things that you most commonly eat and know roughly how many grams of protein it contains.
Here is your official permission to snack! The chances are that you are not going to hit your protein targets through three meals alone, so why not have a couple of protein-rich snacks to see you through. I like skyr yogurt for this as some tubs contain up to 25g of protein without being proportionally too high in the other macronutrients. A boiled egg works well too (but stinky!). I would try and avoid shop bought protein bars because they tend to be high in sugar and calories, which would affect your balance of macros, but if you can fit them in then they’re okay for the odd treat.
One of the easiest ways to reach your protein goal is to use protein powder. This is generally a lower calorie way of getting between 25-50g of protein in in one go. Once upon a time, protein shakes were only used by bodybuilders and gym fanatics and they were chalky and claggy. I’m glad to say that things have come on a long way since then and there are some really good protein powders on the market. I would advise you to shop around and have a look at the nutritional information as they do vary in quality. Also beware of the ‘diet’ trap and the ‘woman’ trap. Often brands try and get you to part with more money by selling diet versions of their protein but read the label carefully, sometimes these diet versions are actually higher in calorie than the ‘normal’ version and are more expensive. And as regards ‘women’s’ protein? Unnecessary. Again, these are inevitably more expensive and are no more benefits. Total calories and protein calories per serving are what you want to concentrate on.
Just remember that supplements are just that, they are there to suppliment your diet and not be the main event. Try to get as much protien in as you can and then top yourself up with this. They can also be handy if you’re out and about and you need a snack as they’re just so convenient.
Add Extra Protein to Things
Rather like when your parents squashed up green vegetables and snuck them into your mashed potato, you should add extra protein to things that you are eating anyway.
One of my favourite things to do is to mix in protein powder to Greek yogurt (or even Skyr, one of the higher protein yogurts) and then maybe add some berries. Top tip, if you’re using chocolate protein powder then half a teaspoon of cocoa powder is going to make this richer and more like a chocolate dessert without messing your macros up. This is such a delicious treat that tastes really indulgent, but it’s really high in protein and can be relatively low in carbs and fats depending on the type of yogurt that you use.
You could also make an omlette with a couple of whole eggs and a couple of egg whites. This is going to increase the protein content of your omlette without adding too many additional carbs and fats. I would say though to make sure that you at least have a couple of yolks in there because a) life is for living and b) a lot of the vitamins and minerals that are found in eggs are actually found in the yolk.
But overall I just want to say, stick with it. Dietary changes are hard to start with and going from 20g of protein per day to 160g (just an example – don’t do without working out your protein requirements) is going to be a massive leap. If you are struggling, then you may want to consider bringing your protein goal up gradually. Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t hitting it straight away, follow these tips, keep learning what your food is make up of and you’ll get there eventually.
Do you have any tips for getting more protein in to your diet?
I find diet culture both fascinating and horrendous at the same time. But mostly horrendous. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that I am above this by any stretch of the imagination. I have fallen for some things in the past, but now I like to think that I can see through a lot more than I could previously, and I hope that this means that I don’t fall into any traps in future.
The biggest issue in the diet industry as I see it, is over-complication. At the end of the day, for the vast majority of people (and I’m sorry but you are unlikely to be in the minority), losing fat comes down to an equation.
Calories in Calorie out = fat loss Calories In Calories out = fat levels maintained Calories in Calories out = fat gain
It really is that simple. Yet we overcomplicate it with tea-toxes, appetite-reducing lollipops and strange diets. The diet industry overcomplicates things to hide the only thing that you really need to do to lose fat and, more importantly, to sell you stuff. You won’t buy diet books, shakes and teas that make you live on the toilet; you’ll just eat a bit less and move more.
We all want a quick-fix and nobody wants to do the hard work, this is human nature (and from an evolutionary point of view makes sense as our brain was all about preserving energy). The diet industry prays on this to make you think that buying their products will make the weight fall off in 10 days. But think back to a time where you, or maybe one of your friends or family, bought into this. Did you keep the weight off? Or did you gain it back? That’s if you even lost any weight at all.
Like the Tortoise and the Hare, the most efficient way to lose fat is to be slow and steady. It is thought that it takes 3,500 calories to burn a pound of fat, but only700to burn a pound of muscle. When your body is in a calorie deficit, your brain panics and tries to preserve energy where it can (you can’t blame it, it is just trying to keep you alive). Where this happens, and not many demands are being placed on your muscles, then your body actually prefers to burn muscle than fat. And also think about it from a purely mathematical point of view, did Brenda in Fat Club* really manage a calorie deficit of 17,500 in a week (which would be needed for it to be pure fat), or did she also lose muscle and water? This is why losing large amounts of weight in a short period of time is not beneficial. And I purposely say weight here as there is a difference between weight loss and fat loss. Not only is a smaller calorie deficit more sustainable and easier to adhere to (which means that you are more likely to be in a calorie deficit rather than a binge-restrict cycle), but it is also more enjoyable.
I tend to go to the gym four or five times per week and if I can’t make it to the gym then I’ll work out at home. This isn’t always possible but this is what I strive for. Because I workout so regularly, I often have people ask me how I am so motivated.
“Sometimes I’m tired, busy or just plain lazy but I’ll do it anyway.”
The truth is that I’m not always motivated. While it is true that I LOVE exercise, I don’t always want to do it. Sometimes I’m tired, busy or just plain lazy but I’ll do it anyway. How? Discipline. Sometimes I force myself to workout. I make myself go to the gym or pick up my kettlebells at home so that I get to the point that it is something that I just do without thinking. I finish work and I go to the gym. Now this isn’t to say that I don’t listen to my body. If I’m feeling tired, then I’ll go to the gym and do my warm up. If it feels good, then I’ll proceed to my workout; if I still feel really sluggish and horrible, then I’ll do some stretching, a bit of light cardio and go home. Most of the time, once I am in the gym, in my workout clothes and the blood is pumping, I enjoy my workout and I’m glad that I went.
Motivation isn’t something that is constant. Like anything else, we get it in peaks and troughs and we can’t rely on it. Who can honestly say that they are motivated to go to work every single day? We all have days where we want to stay in bed longer and we don’t want to go in but we drag ourselves out of our warm beds, shove ourselves into work clothes and go in every single day. That’s discipline. Sometimes we have to force ourselves do go, the same applies to working out.
My point is this. You aren’t going to want to go to the gym every day, that is normal. But you should go anyway. If you make yourself go, then chances are that you’ll feel better after you’ve been. Eventually, you’ll find your motivation again and it’ll be easier. At the end of the end of the day, discipline wins over motivation.
I never ever used to take a packed lunch. I used to go to Greggs (a pasty shop) every single day. I’d get a flavourless cheese and ham baguette and some kind of sweet treat. When I moved so somewhere that didn’t have a Greggs, I started going to Subway. I became such a regular there that they would give me extra beef. At the time I thought that this was great, but looking back I cringe. The worst thing is that I thought that Subway was so healthy (in part due to clever marketing and the ‘Subway diet’) and chose to eat there over McDonalds due to it being lower in calories (note to my former self: just because something has salad in it, does not mean that it is low calorie). On the couple of occasions that I decided that I needed to ‘lose weight’, I would substitute my foot long for a six-inch sub and somehow thought that the pounds were going to fall off me. Needless to say they didn’t.
I started religiously taking a packed lunch to work four days a week when I was studying the Legal Practice Course part-time as well as working full-time hours. I only had 45 minutes for lunch and physically didn’t have time to go out and buy lunch and eat it (and luckily at this point it didn’t occur to me to eat at my desk due to the workplace culture at the time). I was so busy that I start food prepping before it became a thing and would make enough lunches for most of the week on a Sunday night. Normally it was a hot meal such as a vegetable tagine. I noticed at the time that I had excess funds at the end of the month, but rather than attributing it to lower food costs I thought that it was because I literally didn’t have time to do anything apart from work and study.
But taking a packed lunch isn’t just great from a money saving point of view (because trust me, sometimes I swear I spend more on food cooking and enjoying my foodie treats than it would buying food out), you also have more control over what you are eating. How often have you lost track of time, had to take a late lunch and then got to the shops to find nothing but soggy, calorific sandwiches left? I find that by planning what I’m having for lunch I eat something that is much more balanced and that gives me energy during the afternoon rather than horrible slumps about an hour after I have eaten. I’m also likely to eat something higher in protein, fibreand micronutrients than when I buy lunch.
I recommend getting a nice lunch box that you are proud to use but bog-standard Tupperware is fine too (but if you’re using plastic then please re-use until it falls apart). I also advise you to food prep! This is a life-saver! The chances of you having the energy and time to prepare lunch in advance every night are pretty slim but setting some time aside on a Sunday to make lunch until Wednesday is going to make taking packed lunches so much easier. I then tend to make lunch for Thursday and Friday on Wednesday night (partly because this is my rest day and I have more time, but mostly because I wouldn’t want to eat food after four days).
If you enjoy getting your food out then you don’t have to take a packed lunch everyday, but how about you try taking a packed lunch three days per week and eating out two days? You could then work down to just getting lunch out on Fridays like a lot of my colleagues do. Although if you’re like me once you are in the swing of it, you may prefer your own lunch prep than what you can buy locally!
Do you take a packed lunch? How does this compare to the food options in your local area?