Let’s talk food!
Since the start of my fitness journey here in the UK, I’ve gone through so many nutrition and food phases. At one point I was hugely into eating what I thought was a ‘clean’ diet meaning I stuck to all the lean meat and other animal protein sources, very little fat and very little carbs. While I was actually getting leaner and felt pretty good, eventually I got really grossed out by the meat I was buying and preparing at home. As I didn’t want to spend a huge amount on food, I would normally just get the cheaper chicken breasts as organic, good quality meat was not as easy find in Birmingham where I lived before moving to London. More and more fish and vegetarian foods appeared on my plate during that time as I started to eliminate most of the meat from my diet.
It wasn’t until I moved to London, that my world got shaken up in terms of fitness and nutrition knowledge. I started body weight training with Spartan Fam led by Chaka Bars and running with Run Dem Crew headed by Charlie Dark. Spending quite a bit of time with so many inspiring people led me to trying new things and doing a lot of research on my own. My breakthrough moment was when we went on a fitness holiday in Turkey with all the Spartan Fam people where I started exploring alternative nutrition options. I got really inspired by people like Tim Shieff (free runner) and my friend Vegan Steve, who were in an incredibly good shape and following a plant based/vegan diet. At that time they were mainly into eating raw foods or more so Raw Till 4, which just simply means eating fruit and vegetables for breakfast and lunch with a cooked meal in the evening. Sounds a bit crazy, but I did it for a few good months and felt so good!
After this holiday I started doing some more research on Youtube and suddenly found a huge vegan/plant based community there with many inspiring people doing extraordinary things. People like Freelee the Banana Girl and Durianrider (both very controversial, but huge on Youtube) got my attention and I was keen to try this carb heavy plant based lifestyle that didn’t limit calories. I also watched a bunch of important documentaries like Forks Over Knives, Food Inc and Cowspiracy (on Netflix) to name a few. This has fully opened up my eyes to why a whole foods plant based diet is one of the healthiest ways to live. But wait, what about the protein I was so concerned about earlier?
This is probably the biggest myth surrounding a vegan diet and something that vegan people have had to explain it to their friends and colleagues many many times… Whilst according to many peer reviewed studies like The China Study and findings by doctors and top health physicians like T. Collin Campbell, Caldwell Esselstyn, John A. McDougall, Neal Barnard, Michael Greger, protein is definitely not the problem or even a big focus on a plant based diet. As you may know, protein is found in most plants and some have more per weight than meat products. However, our primarily source of energy is carbs (something that our brain is fuelled by too!) and protein shouldn’t actually be the main focus as we get enough of it providing we eat a well balanced diet and enough calories. Things like protein deficiency doesn’t even exist and hasn’t got a medical name for it. If anything, in our western diets we eat too much of it. Whilst I’m no health or nutrition professional, I would definitely advice to do your own research and I’ve listed majority of the people and documentaries worth checking out above.
Plant based protein foods are much lower in calories, so this is something you have to consider and increase the volume of food you eat, including the protein sources. Now that I do a fair amount of cycling and started racing again, I am looking to build a bit of muscle and started including some extra protein after heavier training sessions. Whilst my preferred way of getting protein and all other nutrients is predominantly from food, there are a few things I’ve started including in my diet.
Asides from protein, I now take B12 (skin patches), Vitamin D and Omega 3 supplements as that’s something that is fairly hard to get enough of from the food alone. If you’re training, it is certainly worth doing a full blood test with your GP to see if there’s anything you’re lacking. When it comes to protein, I tend to eat loads of beans, lentils, soya and tofu to get my daily requirements, but never worry about any numbers. In addition to that, I have also looked far a wide to find the best plant based protein shake and I think I’ve got this one down! I tried quite a few different ones, from pea and soya protein to rice and hemp, which is my favourite. It claims to contain 20 amino acids including the 9 essential amino acids, which our bodies cannot produce on its own. It also boasts to have more omega fatty acids and fiber compared to other alternatives.
I’ve been using the Purition raw vegan hemp shakes for a while now and can really tell the difference by how I feel. I am recovering much faster after my training sessions – this also helps when you’re on a fully plant based diet as it is known that animal protein encourages inflammation in the body. There’s 3 flavours from Purition and my favourite is the vanilla one! They all contain real ingredients like nuts and seeds and nothing artificial, which is really important to me. I hate all these protein powders and supplements that have weird stuff in there and juste taste really artificial. I tend to bulk up the shake with a banana, some chia seeds, plant based milk or coconut water, agave syrup, cinnamon and a little bit of almond or peanut butter for extra nuttiness. So if you’re after a plant based protein shake/smoothie, I would highly recommend trying hemp. I do have one tip though – make sure you blend for a bit longer compared to other protein powders. Because it’s real food, it is a bit more coarse, but totally worth it!
Hope this is helpful to some of you, but if you have any questions – give me a shout.
Eat more plants 😉