Paleo: 12 Weeks To Change Your Life by Rebecca Field

I have a cupboard full of recipe books and a quick flick through will reveal exactly which ones are the tried and tested favourites (well-thumbed, slightly stained pages)! I was interested then, to be offered an e-recipe book to try out. I do often search for recipes online, usually when I have a mish-mash of ingredients and I have no idea how to put them together to form an actual meal! This usually means a hurriedly scribbled list and some sketchy instructions on a scrap of paper, so I wasn’t sure how well I’d get on with an e-book; I enjoy sitting on the sofa with a ‘real’ book, marking pages that catch my eye.

We do have an iPad in the house, so this turns out to be the best platform for me, propped against the chopping boards, wedged behind the butter dish! The book is well-written and nicely laid out, with the usual lists of ‘store cupboard’ essentials, a good section on planning ahead, some words about the importance of exercise (of course!), all interspersed with case studies to inspire you to have a go (and keep going).

Cover

Cover

This is more than a recipe book. You will find sections on motivation, stress-reduction, the importance of sleep, ‘bad days’, nutrients, hunger, so basically a holistic approach to making changes to your diet (as it should be!). After reading the introduction, finding out what’s in and what’s out, working out a plan of action and thinking about incorporating exercise, you are presented with some helpful weekly meal plans. I find it so much easier to stick to a plan if I’m told exactly what to do! In an ideal world, we would, at this point, do a weekly shop based on these plans and make it all the more achievable to stay focused. Although there are foods that you have to avoid, there is a very positive focus on eating a nutrient-dense diet, offering a wide range of vitamins and minerals to make you feel fitter, stronger and more alert.

The Recipes!

Beautifully illustrated, with colourful, mouth-watering images of all the meals, the recipe section is clearly laid out, easy to follow and, best of all, uses small lists of easy-to-source ingredients (I am turned off by long lists and complicated methods, no thank you!). Breakfast includes lots of egg recipes, which is great since I am currently limited to a plain omelette or ropy-looking poached eggs!

Granola

Granola

Lunch offers lots of delicious salads, soups and broths, and ‘wraps’ (with the wrap element being lettuce leaves), all bursting with colour and nutrients. Dinner is a meaty affair, which is fine by me, but we do try to eat meat only a couple of times a week – it took quite a lot of scrolling to reach the fish section! There is an excellent salad and sides section, with some tasty dips and sauces and lots of vegetable dishes to make into a main, or to accompany an earlier recipe as a side.

Grilled fresh trout

Grilled fresh trout

Quite often when I look at ‘healthy’ recipe books, the puddings are either overlooked or disappointingly dull, but this book offers a selection of fruity treats, such as Raspberry Ice Cream, using coconut milk (it looks yummy!) and one I might try this weekend, since we have lots of plums, Roast Plums with Star Anise and Cashew Nut Cream. Included also are snacks, smoothies and juices, so plenty (200 recipes!) to keep you focused on eating an array of foods across the week.

Try this at home!

Just like the picture in the book...sort of!

Just like the picture in the book…sort of!

This week I gave one of the recipes a try. It happened to be a day when Hector had a friend around after school, so I wondered if I was risking it trying something new with potentially fussy eaters! The Persian Chicken Kebabs are so incredibly easy to make though and, as I was mixing the marinade (garlic, pepper, ground coriander, turmeric, ground ginger and lemon juice) the boys looked on, Hector’s friend commenting ‘I don’t like ginger. I don’t like lemon juice. I don’t like chicken’. It was a different matter though, when I presented them with tasty skewers, piled on a mixed salad and they tucked in, telling me that they did ‘indeed like the chicken!’ Result! I do find it hard sometimes to work anything a bit different into our diet, but the recipes here can easily fit in with family life, with enough to choose from to please the choosy amongst us!

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Powerbar Sports Protein Plus

I’m doing a lot of swimming at the moment and those of you who have read about my swim sessions before will know that I get terribly ‘swamished’. This was a word coined by my friend Hugh after last year’s Swimathon. There’s something about swimming, more than running or cycling, that gives me a huge appetite and, if I don’t carry something in my bag to snaffle as soon as I’m dry (or even whilst drying myself!), then I will end up mindlessly eating daft stuff.

Three flavours

Three flavours

I was recently sent some Powerbar Sports Protein Plus bars to try out, by the people at ProBikeKit. I’m always eager to try new fuel and refuel foods, so started carrying these in my kit bag to see if they did the trick in fighting a bout of swamishness. They did! I was sent three flavours to try: Blueberry Nuts, Lemon Cheesecake and Orange Jaffa Cake. A personal favourite is definitely the Orange Jaffa Cake bar and not just because it’s covered in dark chocolate, really.

Jaffa Cakey

Jaffa Cakey

This one and the Lemon Cheesecake bar have a very different texture to the Blueberry Nut bar, kind of like a deliciously orangey (or lemony) Milky Way. I liked the chewiness and the freshness of the flavour. They also really filled me up after a hard swim. Result! The Blueberry Nut bar is more of a cereal bar, more crunchy and crispy, with added dried fruits. It’s recommended that we eat a combination of protein and carbs after exercise, to help repair our muscles and replenish glycogen. You can do this in a number of ways, if you are going straight home to eat (or are super prepared), but it’s often easier to stash a bar in your bag if you are on the go and these seem to be a tasty option. You can find out more about the bars here and buy some if you fancy trying something new, post-swim/run/ride.

Dr Zak’s Powdered Peanut Butter

Yes, really, powdered peanut butter! I wasn’t so sure myself, but actually, it’s pretty good.

Powdered PB

Powdered PB

It comes in a 150g tub (for ยฃ4.49) and you can mix it with equal parts water to make a paste to butter your bagels, or simply add it in powdered form to make a nutty and protein-packed smoothie. So, why powdered PB? What’s the difference? If you are looking to put some extra protein into your diet, but don’t like that protein-powder taste (and all the added sweeteners, emulsifiers and so on), then this is a simple option. The butter has just three ingredients (peanut flour, a little sugar and a pinch of salt) and has 80% less fat than conventional peanut butter and has a whopping 45g of high quality protein per 100g.

I mixed some up with a bit of water to get a nice smooth paste (and licking the spoon proved that it tastes pretty good – though I prefer a crunchy peanut butter for spreading) and added it to some banana and almond milk to make a tasty post-swim smoothie.

Smooth(ie)

Smooth(ie)

If you want to pack some extra protein without really trying that hard, then it’s pretty easy to bulk up your smoothie after your run/ride/swim, or to make your breakfast work that little bit harder. Have a look here to find out more.

Dr Zak’s Protein-Packed Nut Butters

Yum! I love peanut butter, so was drooling slightly at the thought of trying out the new Dr Zak’s nut butters. You might remember earlier in the year I tried out some of Dr Zak’s protein bagels and really liked them, so I was intrigued to sample something new. The peanut butters come in five flavours: Salted Caramel, White Chocolate & Coconut, Apple & Cinnamon, Cherry Bakewell and Fresh Raspberry; I was sent a jar each of the white chocolate and coconut and cherry bakewell flavours.

Peanutty goodness

Peanutty goodness

I must admit, I prefer my nut butters crunchy, with a bit of bite to them and these are smooth butters and quite runny. I don’t normally have the jam and peanut butter on toast combo so, in the interest of research, just stuck a spoon in and had a lick. Sweeeeeeeeeet!! Really, these are very sweet, so you might want to miss the jam layer! The spreads are made in the UK and are free from palm oil, naturally sweetened with fruit extract, contain no preservatives and deliver 7.2g of protein in every 20g serving, so this seems like a tasty way to get some additional protein in your diet when training hard.

Since I find them a bit sweet for my liking, I have been dolloping a spoonful in a post-run smoothie and also baked some peanut butter flapjacks as a refuelling treat (though, with the oil content, you need to adjust your baking time so they don’t burn. Ahem ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). The spreads are made using the highest quality partially hydrolysed whey protein isolate, are approved by the Vegetarian Society and can be bought from a number of online stockists listed here (you can also search by postcode for your nearest retailer). Let me know if you think up any new ways to use peanut butter in your diet and post any links to tasty recipes below ๐Ÿ™‚

London Duathlon, 2015, I did it!

Do you remember last year, when I tried really, really hard, forgot to take on fuel, had a tough time, then threw up at the end? Well this year was going to be different. When you have such a very long time to work towards a goal, it’s motivating, but also seems so far away that you only really address any big issues as it gets nearer. I had all summer to train, but ‘all summer’ includes the school holidays, where training gets a little less intense due to lack of time. I felt fit and strong in the run up to this race, but was struck by a particularly nasty cold about a week and a half ago. This meant my last full week of training was cut short and taper week was spent drinking lemon and honey tea and blowing my nose. Somehow I managed to keep the cold away from my chest and rather nervously gathered together my stuff and re-read Chrissie Wellington’s autobiography to give me a little psychological boost (it’s very good).

Lasti-laces

Lasti-laces

So, when Sunday morning came round, I did the quietly-trying-to-get-dressed-and-have-breakfast-without-waking-anyone thing and swept out of the house while it was still dark. Last year my two-strong support crew did a splendid job of cheering me around the course but, due to an earlier start time, they decided to do junior parkrun and swimming instead ๐Ÿ˜ฆ By the time I got to Waterloo Station, there were a few slightly tired and nervous-looking people with bikes. I got chatting to a chap called Andrew who was taking on the Ultra distance. Respect. It was turning into a beautiful morning, with blue skies and pink-tinged vapour trails and, when we arrived at Richmond Park, things were really getting going.

To transition

To transition

Once I’d faffed about a little, racked my bike, said hello to a fellow Kent AC runner, David and pinned my number to my top, it was time to leg it to the loo before starting the 10k run. It was at this point that I really wished I’d gone sooner, there definitely need to be more loos next year, people were hopping about anxiously, though the entertainment was quite good, watching men wrestling with tri-suits as they entered/exited the urinal area (yes, I was trying to distract myself here). When I eventually left the portaloos I had to run over to the start which, by now, consisted of a rather long line of people waiting to be ushered through the staggered start area. This is all organised really well, minimising the chances of crowds of runners filling the road which, in places is shared with cyclists. I would like to have positioned myself a bit further forward though, to avoid waiting around, getting nervous!

To the start

To the start

A countdown of beeps sounded and off we went. I could feel from the start that this was going to be difficult – the couple of runs I had done in the week, to test my cold-stricken body were very laboured and wheezy, so I took it steady, feeling the need to warm up fully in the first couple of miles. I quickly found myself in a to and fro with another runner of a similar pace, she would overtake me, I would overtake back and so on, pulling each other along. She did apologise further into the run for using me as a pacer, no need to apologise, I was doing exactly the same! The temperature was rising and I reminded myself of my fuel plan to avoid a repeat of last year. In the last kilometre, the other runner pulled away as I slurped messily on an overly sweet gel (they really are quite disgusting). T1 involved a quick drink, shoe change, grab bike and helmet and go.

I loved the bike course, I always look so much happier in the bike photos than the run! The stretch of road out of transition is quite narrow, with runners coming in the opposite direction and faster cyclists overtaking with an ‘on your right!’. The course was familiar and I knew what to expect as we rounded a corner and started to ease upwards. This hill is tough-going, especially on the fourth lap! There was a timer van at this point and the little speed-bump type mats felt rather big! It was always a joy though, to hear the cheers from the little crowds that had positioned themselves here, really encouraging people on, even running alongside someone who was pushing her bike. Once up and over, there are some great downhill stretches where I really let myself fly, well by my standards anyway, I was still being overtaken by braver folk. Some very tight corners, complete with straw bales and onto the flat for a bit. It was here that I had one of my loveliest moments, when a magnificent stag stood feet away with his family, lifted his head, opened his mouth wide and sort of mooed/roared at me! Not something you see in many races!

I knew from my watch and from how my legs felt (cramp had set in as soon as I got on my bike) that I was coming up to transition time, but couldn’t find a chance to take on another gel. I had stuck to my plan and had plenty to drink on the bike, so had the second gel as I changed my shoes again. This is where things get really hard. Running from the bike is always difficult, but somehow more so in a duathlon where you have already completed a run. I kept it steady and worked my way through the nasty cramp that had hold of my quads. A little walk. A little jog and so on. I overtook a man I had talked to briefly at the start, he told me I was doing well. I kept going. Another gel. I passed the spot where I had stretched then crumpled slightly last year. Another walk. I grabbed some water from a volunteer and we both did a double-take – a fellow club runner! I was now doing the ‘I’ll walk to that cone, then jog’ thing. For the last two kilometres though I really wanted to run, I didn’t want to take any longer than last year, so kept it steady and encouraged other runners that I passed along the way – you see many people stopping with cramp in this run, it’s really hard work. The finish was in sight and I pushed on through, grabbing my medal, t-shirt, water and a banana. I had done it! I had hoped to get under three hours (last year was 3 hours 4 minutes), but I had no idea at this point if I had achieved that goal (I doubted it), but now my only goal was to refuel quickly without being sick. I managed half a banana and a Goodness Shake before I felt a bit bleurgh, so sat down and took the obligatory selfie ๐Ÿ™‚

Bling

Bling

Duathletes continued to trickle through and lots of people stood around stretching and refuelling, it’s always a rather slow journey home! Feeling ok, I gathered up my stuff and headed to the station on my bike, a nice gentle ride to loosen my already stiff legs. I hadn’t hit my time goal, finishing in 3 hours 10 minutes 31 seconds – the time was lost by running a slower 10k and taking a bit longer on the bike. Having a stinking cold is not the best preparation, but I’m glad I managed to finish and not suffer too much! Once I’d got home, had big hugs from the boys, drank tea, bathed and had a little lie down, it was time to enjoy some good roast dinner to really refuel, I definitely got to eat the last roast potato this time!

Roasties

Roasties

Thank you to London Duathlon for giving me the place. If you want to enter next year’s race, register your interest here and check out the distances – you can take a shorter challenge, or even a longer one if you’re feeling epic! I’d love to race at the London Duathlon again, it’s an excellent course and really well supported and organised…and I really want to go under three hours!! For now I will rest and recover, massaging my aching muscles and fuelling my body for Sunday’s triathlon – eek!

Juneathon 2015

Errr.

You remember Juneathon? I used to throw myself wholeheartedly into this (and its colder sister, Janathon), but in recent years I have decided I need to focus on my training and not knacker myself up by trying to run every day for a month. This June I’m sticking to that plan but still participating in Juneathon. ‘How so?’ you may ask, well I normally do something active every day anyway, so why not share it with everyone else and encourage others along the way? I will be doing my usual run/swim/ride combination, but making sure I log it (mostly via Twitter, but with a weekly round-up on here) and maybe pushing myself out of the door/into the water on days where I might normally have opted for the pyjamas/sofa combo.

If you’re a regular reader, you will know that I have been trying to overcome my slight fear of the open-water and this has become especially pressing as I have now gone and entered an open-water triathlon in July. Eeek! Action stations! Juneathon will be about me getting my head and body around this challenge so, to really get myself closer to that goal, I have signed up for a couple of coached sessions in the Serpentine in Hyde Park (yup, where you watched those elites showing off their nerve at the weekend). If you’re one of those people who happily leaps off a tree branch into a river, cheering as you go, you might wonder what I’m so afraid of. It’s certainly not the swimming, remember I took on a 5k swim (and all the training leading up to it) in April? I’m now a strong swimmer, I can carve up and down the fast lane with my head held high (though not too high. You know). I guess I’m afraid of the unknown, the darkness of open-water, the creatures, the weeds that might curl around my ankles, the cold, not being able to breath and – in competition – the other swimmers thrashing around me. But I am going to overcome this.

I do need to get myself kitted out with a wetsuit though. My lovely friend Siggy has lent me her wetsuit, but I am yet to actually get it wet! I have taken it on tour, but it has stayed very neatly packed in its nifty bag…

Wetsuit on tour

Wetsuit on tour

If anyone has any tips on (budget) wetsuits, that would be great. I have been looking at the Wiggle DHB wetsuit, and if anyone has tried it and can recommend it, I’d love to know (though they are out of my size at the moment!).

Something else I am going to use Juneathon to focus on is my diet. I do eat healthily, I don’t drink alcohol and rarely succumb to the take-away leaflet, but my default lunch or snack seems to have become toast, which can’t be a good thing can it? I am a typical Mum: my child is well-hydrated and full of fruit and I’m parched and probably only reaching my one-a-day. I keep reading fellow bloggers experiences of the Whole30, so decided I’d try and stick to that for the month (and beyond?). It’s not about losing weight or going hungry, it’s a kind of re-boot towards a healthier diet. Since it means no bread for a month, I can see the toast-for-lunch thing getting smashed to crumbs (though this will be hard!). My book arrived today, so yesterday I just did a combination of guess-work and gleaning ideas from blogs. Now I’ve got the literature, I can try out some recipes and be a bit more informed. I shall update you on this when I write my round-up at the weekend…this will be way trickier than being active…mmmmm…toast.

Dr Zak’s High Protein Bagels

My post-run/swim/bike routine goes something like this:

get in, put kettle on, fill drinks bottle with High5 Zero, do a bit of core work, stretch a bit whilst rehydrating, shower, dress, check emails/get distracted by Twitter/sort out the washing, realise I’m really hungry, stand in kitchen eating cereal from the box. I’m pretty sure I’ve never read that in Runner’s World. I know I should ideally eat *something* within half an hour of finishing a workout, and I know that I should consume a combination of protein and carbs, but I kind of forget and I’m usually not terribly inspired by what’s on offer. Recently I was sent some Dr Zak’s High Protein Bagels to try, so was determined to be a bit more ‘athlete’ about my post-workout refuel routine.

Dr Zak's Pak

Dr Zak’s Pak

It was good knowing I had something planned after my long swim (I do fantasise about what I will eat later whilst swimming, it makes me sooooo hungry!) and I decided to increase the protein levels even more by filling the bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese – that’s what you have on a bagel, right?

Grainy

Grainy

I must say, it was delicious and I felt full for ages afterwards, which is unusual for me following a swim. Each of these bagels has twice the amount of protein as a regular bagel (about the same as a piece of chicken breast), thus allowing you to up your levels of muscle repairing protein without resorting to powdered shakes and supplements. It’s the high levels of fibre that keep the hunger at bay, and I liked the nuttiness of the seeded topping, which gives the bagels a nice texture (and extra nutrients). The next day I toasted my bagel (I prefer them toasted) and added crunchy peanut butter (more protein!).

Yum

Yum

If you like to refuel and create a balance in your diet through ‘real’ food rather than supplements, then this is a great idea. Dr Zak’s bagels are available from health food shops, with a pack of four costing ยฃ3.50 – which might seem pricey, but they are big and really do fill you up (it works out at less than 90p for 24g of protein). It beats a handful of cereal anyway ๐Ÿ˜‰