Dishing up the dirt on clean desserts

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One thing I hate about the health and fitness industry is when brands take advantage of the innocent consumer and market products as ‘healthy’ when in fact they aren’t. By using marketing ploys such as ‘low carb’, ‘sugar free’, ‘low fat’, ‘natural’, ‘made from real fruit’, many companies deceive the consumer into thinking that what they are consuming is either good for them or conducive to weight loss.

Although I am passionate about choosing more natural and clean foods most of the time, a big issue I’m seeing is consumers thinking that just because a food is ‘clean’ means that it will help them in their bid to lose body fat.

One of the latest clean eating fads are ‘raw desserts’, which are generally made from an abundance of fruit and nuts. Now don’t get me wrong, there are certainly benefits of choosing a raw dessert over the processed kind (I will touch on that later), but the problem is that people think that because the dessert is raw, natural, and free from artificial additives it means they can eat as much as they like, or that it doesn’t count as a ‘cheat’ meal. Fruit and nuts are healthy right?!
Fruits such as dates and bananas, and nuts such as cashews, almonds and coconut seem to form the basis of most raw desserts. Maple syrup, honey or agave are often added to provide more sweetness. Albeit these are natural ingredients, what people forget to consider is that the actual macronutrient value of the dessert may not be all that different from the ‘dirty’ alternative. Macronutrients refer to proteins, carbohydrates and fats. When it comes down to clean dessert alternatives, just because the sugar is from fruit or the fat is from nuts doesn’t change the fact that it’s calories being consumed by your body. A sugar provides 4 calories per gram regardless of whether it’s from fruit or table sugar, and a fat provides 9 calories per gram whether it’s from a nut or cream and butter.

Take raw caramel slice as an example. You may find this blog post ironic in fact, because I posted a recipe for my raw caramel slice not long ago. However you will notice that my recipe came along with a warning that it should still be consumed in moderation.  This is because even though it’s a clean alternative, it is still an extremely calorie dense dessert. If you’ve ever made a raw dessert yourself or even some raw protein balls, you will know just how much dried fruit and nuts go into these health-ified treats.

Given that weight/fat loss is ultimately just an equation of calories in vs calories out, whether you have a clean dessert or a ‘dirty’ dessert may not make too much difference to your ultimate goal (assuming the portion sizes contain roughly the same amount of calories). In that respect, I feel that sometimes it’s worth enjoying the ‘naughty’ version when it comes time to have your treat meal – life is about balance after all!

In saying that raw/clean desserts are obviously more beneficial for your health in that they are less processed (or in the case of raw desserts, unprocessed) and don’t contain artificial flavours and preservatives. They are also likely to contain a higher percentage of good fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, rather than bad fats like trans fat.  However looking from a purely weight or fat loss perspective, they are likely to sit relatively on par.

So although I still enjoy raw desserts and experimenting with making them, I think it’s important that they are not misunderstood to be able to be consumed in larger quantities than ordinary desserts. Nor should they be included as part of an eating plan for weight or fat loss. Just because they are ‘clean’ or ‘raw’ doesn’t mean they are any less of a treat.

With love,

B.xx

Image: the-fit-foodie.com

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Clean Eating vs IIFYM – Which will work best for you?

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Two of the biggest eating trends for improving body composition are ‘Clean Eating’ and ‘If It Fits Your Macros’ (IIFYM). They are two very conflicting ideals, yet they have both helped people to achieve their weight loss, fat loss and muscle growth goals. In this post I explore the advantages and disadvantages of both lifestyles, so you can determine which will best suit YOU.

Clean Eating

The idea behind clean eating is to eat as close to nature as possible. This means eliminating processed and refined foods, and only eating foods that are free from artificial additives and preservatives. There are varying degrees of clean eating, with the most strict only eating meat, fish, eggs, vegetables and fruit. Some people will only eat paleo foods, whereas some will eat vegan, gluten-free or sugar-free. Other ‘clean eaters’ eat packaged foods, provided all the ingredients listed are all ‘clean’.

Advantages

  • It focuses on eating healthy, natural foods – We all know that eating natural, unprocessed foods is better for our health. Eating clean is a way of eliminating processed foods, which are generally high in sugar, fat, and/or artificial additives, which are toxic to the human body.
  • There is no calorie restriction – You can eat as much food as you like, provided it’s all ‘clean’. This means no starving yourself – you simply eat when you’re hungry.
  • It’s structured and simple – it’s clear what foods are off-limits and easy to follow without the need to count everything.

Disadvantages

  • You need to be moderately savvy with food labels – Reading food labels will be a must. You need to look at the ingredients list on the back of the packet (if you choose to include packet foods) to ensure that all the ingredients are clean. You will need to be able to recognize trick word like “Natural Flavouring”, which is generally not natural at all. You can’t fall for the “all natural” claim on the front of the packaging – you really need to analyse the ingredients list of what you’re eating. A good rule of thumb to follow is if you can’t recognize all the ingredients, and if you can’t go and buy each individual ingredient in the supermarket yourself, then you shouldn’t buy it. Where can you buy a bottle of Natural Flavouring? You can’t.
  • Not all ‘clean’ packaged foods will help you reach your goal – Clean eaters love their date based bars, fruit and nut bars bound with honey, clean muesli bars etc. but these foods are often high in sugar, despite boasting a ‘clean’ ingredient list. If your goal is weight loss or fat loss, then you need to watch the amount of sugar you are consuming in these kind of products.
  • It restricts the food groups you can eat – Most people find it challenging to cut out all the junk food from their diet. Some can also become fixated on the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, which can lead to an unhealthy obsessive mindset. If you choose to eat clean, it’s okay to have a cheat meal each week where you indulge in ‘dirty’ foods and don’t feel guilty about it.

IIFYM

IIFYM allows you to eat anything, provided it fits within your daily macronutrient requirements, as pre-determined by a ‘macro-nutrient calculator’. Some people also track micronutrients and dietary fibre.

Advantages

  • There is freedom of food choice – You can literally eat anything (including a whole block of chocolate), as long as you don’t exceed or fall below your macros for the day.
  • Flexibility can make it easier to adhere to – eating out is easier, because you can account for it in your macros for the day. You can still eat foods you enjoy like the odd chocolate, protein bar, or ice cream. The benefit of eating in this way is that long-term adherence is easier when your eating is less restricted.

Disadvantages

  • You have to calculate everything – Firstly you need to work out how many grams of protein, fats and carbs you need per day to achieve your goal. Then you need to work out how much of those things is in everything you eat for that day.       Although it sounds easy, 100g of chicken is not 100g of protein. It contains about 31g of protein and 4g of fat. You need to work this out for everything you put in your mouth, which involves a lot of weighing, counting and research. Although this gets easier as you go and start to learn the macronutrient content of your regular foods, every day will be focused around counting. It’s a time consuming process.
  • It’s not necessarily healthy – Just because you can eat chocolate bars all day and still hit your macros doesn’t mean you should. They are still highly processed, full of sugar and fat, and contain toxic additives. Using IIFYM as an excuse to eat junk fund while ‘getting shredded’ will still have consequences on your health. It’s so important to get enough vitamins and minerals from fruit and vegetables. If you fill up your macros with junk food, you’re missing out on certain nutrients vital to your health. Some people will track their micronutrients as well, but again that is a time consuming process.
  • It can be overly tempting – Although the norm is not to fill your macros with junk, when the options are open, some people struggle to resist temptation. Eating foods high in sugar causes your blood sugar level to spike and then drop, which results in you craving another sugar hit to give you energy again. This can become a vicious cycle of cravings and sugar hits, which is not a good thing to have when you’re on a diet where you can technically eat anything. Another problem people may have is if they indulge too much early in the day, forcing them to ration their macros for the rest of the day. Leaving yourself to go hungry because you already used up your macros is not healthy physically or mentally.

What works for me?

I personally prefer the clean eating approach. I care a lot about eating highly nutritious food and avoiding toxins in my lifestyle, especially in what I eat. Eating clean is an effective way to minimize exposure to toxins and maximize intake of vitamins and minerals. I love healthy food because it makes me feel more energized and happy. Junk food always makes me feel sick or groggy. I’m human and get cravings that I occasionally succumb to, but because eating clean makes me function so much better it motivates me to ignore my cravings and eat well. I like having foods I can and can’t eat, and having rules to adhere to. For me, that kind of structure is easier to follow than an IIFYM approach, where I would be tempted by the wide variety of foods I could eat and get slack on my meal prep. I also hate the idea of counting my food and working out my macros every day – I’ve always hated maths! I still have my cheat meal once a week, filled with ‘dirty’ foods. I do think that it’s important to have a cheat meal to keep you balanced, enjoy a meal out with friends, or just to keep you sane. We are all human and there is a lot of temptation, so it’s nice to be able to give in to them sometimes. But overall, I love eating healthy foods and clean eating works well for me.

What will work for you?

You need to work out which approach will be most convenient, manageable and thus sustainable for you and your lifestyle. What will allow you to stick to your eating plan? Do you like to have rules about what foods to eat and what to avoid? Do you feel better eating clean foods? Perhaps you have food intolerances and clean eating is the best way to manage them. Or do you enjoy having flexibility in your diet to have some treats? Do you love eating out a few times a week, and are not willing to sacrifice that? If you had flexibility in your diet, would you have the willpower to still eat healthy foods the majority of the time? The reality is both methods can help you achieve weight loss, fat loss, or muscle gain – you just have to find the one that best suits you. No two people are the same, and thus no diet will work for everyone. Experiment, work out what you find sustainable, and stick to that, because it is consistency that is more important than which lifestyle you choose to follow.

With love,

B. xx

Image: sabotagetimes

“You don’t make friends with salad” – my experience with vegetarianism and body composition

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I want to share what I have learnt about the relationship between vegetarianism and body composition. This is a subject close to my heart, as I was a vegetarian for 8 years. Ethically, I would still prefer to be a vegetarian. However after discovering early this year that I am allergic to gluten, I found being vegetarian and gluten-free too difficult and restrictive. A lot of the protein substitutes I was eating contained wheat, and so I made the tough decision to incorporate some meat into my diet to replace the lost protein. It was tough at first, but with the amount of training I was doing, I knew it was important that I consumed adequate protein, and found that including meat was the best way to do this. I have found that my decision has enabled me to grow muscle and improve my fitness in a way that wasn’t possible when I was vegetarian.

The photos on the left are from when I was a vegetarian. I still ate a lot and exercised regularly by playing sport, running and going to the gym, however as you can see I was very skinny and had little muscle tone. The photos on the right are both within the last month. I have been eating meat for 6 months now, and I go to the gym 5-6 times a week. Although I’m still petite, you can see I now have visible muscle definition and I look healthier. There is about 9kg difference in weight between the photos.

From my personal experience, I don’t believe that a vegetarian or vegan diet can lead to optimal body composition (by which I mean a low body fat percentage and high lean muscle mass). The reason for this is largely protein. Protein is the building blocks of life, and you certainly need it to build muscles. As a vegetarian it is difficult to meet your protein requirements and furthermore, the vegetarian protein sources are absorbed by the body differently and are not ideal for supporting muscle growth.

I was actually very conscious of my protein as a vegetarian. I made sure I ate protein with every meal. I trained hard in the gym and ate a lot of food, but it still took me a long time to put on muscle. Inevitably, this also meant it was harder to lose body fat, because the more lean muscle mass you have, the greater your ability to metabolize fat. As soon as I started incorporating meat (I still only eat chicken, turkey and some fish) I noticed a big difference in my ability to build muscle and lose fat. I feel stronger, leaner, and healthier.

I see all too often people choose to be a vegetarian or vegan to be ‘healthy’. They believe meat is not healthy, and so cutting it out will be better for them. Well, I agree there are things about meat that can be unhealthy – such as not choosing free range or grass fed meats. However, simply cutting meat out without replacing it with other protein sources is not good for your body. I can’t stress the importance of eating protein enough, even if you aren’t trying to build muscle. It is still has an important role in replenishing and repairing your body’s cells. If you are a vegetarian and you don’t eat enough protein, chances are you are not healthy. The chances that you have flaky nails, brittle hair, dry/dull skin or you get sick or tired all the time are pretty high too. These are NOT signs of good health. These are signs of deficiencies.

Being a vegetarian is hard work. It is not simply cutting out meat. It requires the careful management of foods to meet your macronutrient requirements, when there are restricted options for you to choose from. I honestly believe it took me 5 years to perfect my vegetarian diet to the point I no longer got sick all the time. Even still, my flaky nails didn’t go away until I started eating meat several times a day. If you are a vegetarian or vegan and you’re meeting your protein requirements and living healthily then I commend you – it really is hard.
What I’ve shared in this post is just my personal experience. I know there are several bodybuilders out there who promote that they have achieved their physique on a vegetarian or vegan diet. I think what they’ve done is amazing -but they are the minority. Being naturally petite, I don’t think I could have achieved the body composition I have today (or the physique I am still striving to achieve) if I had remained vegetarian. No matter how hard I trained and how much I ate, I was only able to see significant increases in muscle tone after introducing meat.

I don’t discourage the vegetarian or vegan diet, but it is important to do it properly by monitoring your protein and other nutrients. And depending on your goals, it may be the one thing getting in the way of you achieving them. It certainly was for me.

With love,
B. xx

Note: Any negative comments on vegetarians or meat eaters will not be approved – this is a positive space. However if you have any questions, feel free to get in contact with me  🙂

“Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”

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A few people have asked me how I organize myself to ‘meal prep’.

Meal prep is tough work – it takes a lot of organization and a lot of time. I’ve figured out a few ways to make the process more efficient, so I waste less time cooking and more time… well, eating!

Here is the step-by-step process I use to prep my meals for the week:

1. Write a weekly meal plan.

I plan out exactly what I’m going to eat for all six meals of the day, for seven days of the week. I do this by breaking it into protein, fats, greens and carbs, so I know I’m meeting my nutrient requirements for each meal.

Note: I eat the same six meals every day for a week. You don’t have to do it this way, but I find it easier to plan for when every day is the same.

2. Grocery shopping

I calculate how much of each type of meat I’ll need to get me through that whole week. For instance if I eat 150g raw meat 5 times a day, then:
150g x 5 = 750g per day. 750g x 7 days = 5.25kg.

Note: I do this separately for each type of meat, this is just an example of how I calculate it.

I then go and buy all the meats (I get a variety of chicken breast, turkey, and salmon depending on what meals I’ve planned). The butcher looks at me like I’m crazy, but that’s ok. He doesn’t ask questions.

I follow the same process with my fats and veggies. I usually buy veggies for half the week and do another veggie shop mid-week so they stay fresh.

3. Label your bags

I buy plenty of little snap lock bags which I label with the day and the meal number e.g. ‘Monday 2’.

4. Prepare the meat

I cut all the meat up into 150g portions, weighing it as I go and putting it into the corresponding snap lock bag. I then freeze all of the meat except what I need for the next two days.

5. Cook for two to three days at a time

I do a big cook up usually every second day. Some people cook for 3 days, but I’m just cautious of leaving food in the fridge for too long so prefer to cook for 2. It’s important to cook a few days in advance, or you will end up cooking all the time and won’t have the meals ready if you’re going to be out all day.

Note: The only meal I don’t prepare is meal 1, which I cook in the morning each day.

6. Invest in a good carry bag (e.g. six pack bag)

Having a refrigerated carry bag is important so you can take your meals with you and be prepared wherever you go. If you aren’t prepared, and you get hungry when you’re out, you are likely to make bad choices.

Here is an example of how I plan out my meals to determine how much of everything I need. This is one day. I times the quantities by seven and there you have it – everything I need for the week!

PROTEIN GREENS FATS CARBS
M1 3 Eggs 1tbsp Butter
M2 150g Chicken Zucchini, Carrot 1tbsp Coconut Oil
M3 150g Turkey Mixed Salad ¼ Avocado
M4 125g Salmon Spinach 1tbsp Coconut Oil 150g pumpkin
M5 150g Chicken Tomatoes, Capsicum, Kale 1tbsp Coconut Oil
M6 150g Chicken 1tbsp Coconut Oil

The most important things are to keep it simple, quick and easy for yourself. I buy herbs and spices, lemon and limes so I can chuck these on as I’m cooking to add flavour without much fussing around. The harder you make it, the less likely you will be able to maintain it.

Happy eating!

With love,
B.xx

CLEAN AND COMP-PREP FRIENDLY TURKEY RISSOLES

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I can’t eat plain chicken and steamed broccoli six times a day. I just can’t. It takes all of the enjoyment out of eating, and leaves my taste buds craving something to stimulate them! I make sure I pump plenty of flavour into my meals with natural herbs and spices so I can enjoy my food without compromising my diet. It takes me a little more time in the kitchen, but I think it’s worth it.

I was playing around with making comp-prep friendly recipes that are still jam packed with flavour when I made up these super quick and delicious turkey rissoles!
I love turkey because it’s such a lean meat and it’s high in protein! I’m actually looking forward to eating this every day for the next week.

This recipe makes 2 meals for me.

Ingredients:

300g turkey breast mince

Dried oregano

Rosemary

Dried thyme leaves

Garlic

Spring Onion

Pink sea salt

Cracked pepper

Method:

  1. Chop up the spring onion and garlic into small pieces.
  2. Put turkey mince in a bowl and add all the dried herbs, garlic, salt and pepper and spring onion. I put a lot of herbs in to give them heaps of flavour.
  3. Knead it all together.
  4. Split turkey into 10 even pieces and roll them into balls. Really knead them together so that they stick and don’t break when you cook them.
  5. Heat 1 tsp coconut oil over low to medium heat.
  6. Put each ball on the pan and flatten them as you go.
  7. Cook until you can see they are cooked through to about halfway then flip them.
  8. Once cooked through, remove and serve

These rissoles are delicious served with salad and avocado.

Enjoy!

With love,
B. xx