Diet Roadtest #4 – it’s time to go vegan!

It’s now been a week since I commenced my latest roadtest – vegan! The challenge with a vegan diet, particularly for people who want to gain muscle, shred fat, and maintain energy levels, is usually:

  1. Getting enough protein
  2. Getting enough iron
  3. Getting enough calcium

So can it be done?

For this roadtest, I’ve enlisted the help of our affiliate dietician at Raw by Bek, Ellena Burnett. I knew I couldn’t do this one alone – particularly when it came to getting the right sources of protein and iron.

Here’s the challenge with a vegan diet – while there are plenty of protein sources, none of them have a complete set of proteins. So you need to know more in order to pair the right foods.

After a consult with Ellena, she’s put together a plan that takes into account not just the vegan roadtest, but also the amount of training I do (and the intensity of that training), the time I have to prep food (needs to be simple), and my goals (shred).

The meal plan

A typical day for me this week has looked like this:

Breakfast:

    Overnight oats (oats, cinnamon, vegan protein, chia seeds) with coconut yoghurt and half a cup of berries.

Lunch:

    180g tofu, 1.5 cups of cooked veggies, rice.

Dinner:

    Tofu, veggies, rice – although this varies depending on if I’ve trained in the evening, and how intense the training was.

Snacks:

    Morning tea has typically been a slice of whole meal toast with avo, and in the afternoon a protein shake on almond milk. If I’m training that evening, I’ll also have something like a banana to fuel my workout.
Meal prep, vegan style

What I’ve learned so far

  • This isn’t too different to what I was already eating in terms of type of food – I’ve just had to swap out a few things like real yoghurt for coconut yoghurt, and a different source of protein for dinner (I was already having tofu and veg for lunch).
  • I wasn’t having anywhere near enough protein or good fats in my day-to-day diet. I have actually doubled the amount of tofu I’d usually have for lunch.
  • Eating out isn’t too bad – it’s certainly easier than Keto! So far there’s either been vegan options or I can make modifications to menu items to make them vegan. However, finding vegan wine (yes, that is a thing) is proving more difficult if you’re buying off the menu! May need to investigate BYO…
  • I hate vegan protein powder. It has a weird after taste I thought I’d get used to. That has yet to happen. Also vegan protein powder = vile farts. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This diet has also coincided with my getting braces and Invisalign fitted. Long story short, will need jaw surgery next year and this is the pre-work. But that’s a story for another day.

It means I also need to be wary of if the food is too tough to eat. But more than that, having to take out the Invisalign every time I want to eat is a right pain in the arse. So much so that my laziness has trumped my hunger at certain times, which has actually been a really good way to curb my snacking habits!

One week down, and I’m feeling pretty good, although a little lethargic. I’m not saying vegan is to blame for that, as I’ve also had a massive week at work. So let’s see how week two goes … stay tuned.

Discovering new ways to see fitness programs

A few months ago I had the privilege of seeing Olympian and marathon champion Kurt Fearnley speak at a conference I was helping to facilitate. As I sat behind the AV desk listening to Kurt recount his countless hours of training and what it took to become a champion athlete, I started to reflect on my own fitness practice. I’ve always said my personal philosophy is that fitness should be accessible to everyone, yet it occurred to me that someone like Kurt, a super-fit athlete, couldn’t train in our gym the way it is currently set up or the way we run our classes.

Cue the lightbulb moment!

A few weeks later I was talking to my cousin, Lachlan, who is a member at my gym, about my lightbulb moment. Lachy has two remarkable friends – Santiago and Ciara – who are both vision impaired. Long story short, I invited them both to come to a PT session – I train them for free, while they teach me about what we need to do to make our training and facility more inclusive.

What we’ve learned so far

Both Santi and Ciara have different vision impairments, meaning the way we need to approach their training and how much they can do unassisted is very different. But there are some common themes emerging – things all gyms could do differently to make a big difference to how inclusive our programs and facilities can be. From the little things at the beginning, like making all of our forms online forms so they can use screen readers to complete them, through to the big things like the design of the gym space itself, and better coaching habits … it’s exciting how much scope we have to improve!

Most exciting though is the changes I’ve seen with Ciara – she’s now joined the gym and is participating in classes (mostly with Lachy’s help – he’s a good egg) and training regularly. As a result, her balance, strength, and posture have improved ten-fold, and she’s feeling happier and healthier. Imagine what difference we could make to so many other people’s lives if we could make fitness truly accessible!

The journey is just beginning … stay tuned for more updates!

Hormones could be to blame!

Have you been really good with your diet, exercising your guts out, and still struggling to lose weight?

Are you a woman?

Chances are your hormones are playing a part in sabotaging your weight loss goals.

Here’s the thing – a 20-something-year-old woman is going to find it easier to lose weight than a 40-something-year old for two good reasons:

  1. The younger person will typically have more energy, less stress in their lives, fewer injuries, and fewer muscle or joint problems caused by wear and tear. (And, as one of my PT clients recently pointed out, they’re probably having more sex.)
  2. Your hormones change as you get older, particularly for women as we approach or experience menopause, post-menopause, or pregnancy.

 

Cortisol is a bitch

Older women will typically have higher levels of cortisol – this is the hormone that’s released in response to stress. It helps to regulate blood pressure and provide a boost of energy.

The problem with too much cortisol – immediate or chronic (ie, constant release for a long time) – is it causes issues like suppressing your thyroid function, messing with your blood sugar levels, and decreasing the effectiveness of your immune system.

So basically, when you are experiencing stress, you’ll feel tired, be prone to illness, and your body won’t process sugar as well as it usually does.

The problem with the latter is over-active release of insulin, the hormone that helps your body process sugar. Your blood sugar levels will increase, which means you’ll crave sweet things more regularly, and you may well ‘stress eat’ because of your overstimulated appetite. And if you have excess sugar it’ll convert to fat, and that’s why you’ll find it difficult to lose weight.

hormones

In addition, cortisol, being the nasty little thing that it is, also prevents your body from burning fat for energy, and when you can’t do that it becomes even more difficult to lose weight.

Oh and one more thing – cortisol can also result in a reduction of muscle mass, which in turn prevents you from burning more fat. Fun, hey?

 

So what can you do?

  1. Seek medical advice: If you’ve been struggling to lose weight but you’re doing all the right things, and particularly if you’re a woman aged 35-plus, go and see your doctor and request a hormone balance check. That will give you some insight into whether or not your hormones are out of whack, and your doctor can work with you to get them under control.
  2. Reduce stress: If you suspect cortisol might be the culprit, then you need to treat the cause – how can you reduce the amount of stress in your life? For the sake of your long-term health, you need to make an effort here.
  3. Reduce sugar and fats: Under stress, your body is struggling to process sugar and burn fats more than ever before. That means you really need to focus on reducing these elements from your diet and focus on good sources of protein and fibre.
  4. Change up your exercise routine: If you’re normally into long-distance or endurance training, you’ll need to switch to something more like high-intensity interval training (HIIT). The long slow distance training actually places more stress on your body, which is the last thing you need. It’s also not as effective at burning fat as HIIT. Get a couple of HIIT sessions in a week, as well as strength training to avoid muscle mass depletion.

 

This is an excerpt from my new ebook, ‘Not another #fitspo ebook: The truth about getting fit and healthy, and how to avoid the bullshit’, which will be available in early June! Stay tuned…