The Week in Review

I have not posted a ‘week in review’ for ages, so I guess that now is as good a time as any to start again.

This week I…

  • Embraced YouTube and will be producing content regularly
  • Discovered Relive
  • Revamped my diet again, including fasting schedules

Performance

This was a fairly relaxed week really, mainly because I cannot really run due to the monstrous blisters I gained whilst completing the Yorkshire Three Peaks. I have one covering each heel, the left in particular being very tender indeed. I completed two runs this week, each of which was too early in my recovery and ended up being curtailed as it was just too painful to run at all. Strava summary below. I have taken advantage of clement weather and cycled where possible.

Data

Relive

Relive is a superb app I discovered recently. It reads your workouts from whichever app you use record them – in my case Strava or Garmin – and uses the data to generate a 3D flyover-style video. I will definitely being making use of this in future.

Nutrition

I am still fasting, however I am trying to push my time without food. Right now I have the willpower to fast for a whole day, however when I go past approximately sixteen hours without food I get an absolutely paint-stripping headache. This may sound bad, however it is a positive because that limit used to be fifteen hours. I have been slowly pushing this interval longer and longer. It is frustrating to be in a ‘spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’ position but I clearly need to train my body to accept longer periods without food. Right now the headaches are absolutely unbearable. I suffer migraine attacks and they are equally as debilitating, which means I am essentially incapacitated by the things. I am slowly winning the battle however, so I only need to keep modifying my diet slowly and hopefully I will be able to start doing day-long fasts without side effects.

Pushing Ahead

Right now my priority is to work as hard as I can. I can only wait for my feet to heal so that I can push my running distances again. In the meantime I am working hard on my nutrition. This week I felt the nip of autumn in the air so I am going to make the most of good weather whilst it lasts and push hard as soon as I can run again.

Recipe: Plant-Based Passion Fruit Cheesecake with Papaya Frosting

This is a recipe for a desert that is like tropical sweetness made flesh. It is very easy to make and great for sharing.

Ingredients

Crust

  • 150 grams walnuts
  • 12 pitted dates
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted (have a little more ready in case but the oil from the nuts should also help to combine)

Filling

  • 150 grams cashews, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes
  • 6 passion fruits, pulped
  • 1 can of coconut milk, chilled in freezer and then the water drained away
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • Optional: maple syrup if you like it very sweet

Frosting

  • Pulp of one papaya, seeds removed
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil, melted

Method

  • Pulverise the crust ingredients in the blender until the texture is even
  • Pour it all into whatever cake or pie dish you will serve it in, press firmly until you have a solid crust, then refrigerate whilst you prepare the rest of the recipe
  • Spin all of the ingredients for the filling in the blender until smooth, then pour onto the crust and refrigerate for a minimum four hours
  • Once the filling has fully set, spin all of the ingredients for the frosting in the blender, then pour over the filling and spread evenly with a spatula if necessary
  • Refrigerate until set, preferably overnight
  • Scatter the papaya seeds on top for a little bit of crunch
  • Serve up slices and enjoy!

Recipe: Decadent Plant Based Pancake Stack

Check it out folks. This pancake stack will leave you feeling as though you just ate your weekly meals in one go. You can oil or dry fry this mixture

Ingredients

  • 2 bananas
  • 200 grams oat flour (I just pulverised oats in the blender)
  • Maple syrup to sweeten to taste
  • Soy milk (or your preferred plant milk)

Method

  • Combine the flour, bananas and maple syrup in the blender
  • Slowly add milk whilst gently blending until you reach a sticky, almost dough-like consistency
  • Either heat a dry pan or oil if you prefer, and spoon into squash ball sized portions, squidging them down as they cook
  • Once brown, flip and repeat
  • Serve with fresh, dark berries and maple syrup

Tada! Couldn’t be more simple. For an alternative topping to maple syrup you can make lime stock sugar syrup which is just melted sugar, a little water, and the juice and zest of a lime, or chocolate sauce which is the same but just add cocoa powder instead of the lime ingredients.

Recipe: Quinoa Protein Bowl

This is something I just improvised but it is delicious and looks good so I decided to publish the recipe. It is full of protein, good fats and variety, and the quinoa has a very low glycemic index meaning weight loss.

Ingredients

  • 100 grams quinoa
  • 100 grams (dry weight) dried chickpeas, hydrated and cooked (or a can)
  • 1 bell pepper, julienned
  • 1/2 an iceberg lettuce, chopped
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 1 red chilli, finely diced
  • A generous handful of cashews
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  • Boil your quinoa in water or stock, then rinse and set aside
  • Add a good glug of olive oil to a frying pan, add the chilli and cook for thirty seconds
  • Add the pepper, sweat for three minutes
  • Add the avocado and stir well, cooking for three more minutes
  • Add the lettuce and wilt
  • Throw in the nuts and toss the whole thing to mix well, season to taste, then turn the heat off
  • Add the quinoa to a bowl and fluff with a fork
  • Pour in the fried ingredients and then top off with the chickpeas
  • Sprinkle with lemon juice

Done! Most people will probably need two or three sittings to finish this so it’s cheap too. I might add chilli sauce or change the chickpeas for pinto beans perhaps next time. Maybe even some jalapeños for some twang. Enjoy!

In the pan

Lockdown Progress is Still Progress

Last week I pushed up to five miles running, did plenty of (slow) cycling with the kids on the tourer and on Saturday I did a red hot, scorching hike over Whernside.

Yesterday I cycled in the evening with my boy and I have been amazed to see how quickly he is becoming powerful, fast and strong. He will be better than me hopefully! Captured the gorgeous sunset too. Check out the glitter path below.

I also fond a lovely outdoor location to explore, Rivington Pike near Bolton.

I remain on a 16/8 fasting diet which is working hard for me right now. I have literally stopped all refined sugar intake and I recently discovered that barley has a glycemic index of 25 – ridiculously low – so I am using that as a base for my cooking. That along with quinoa and a few other whole grains like buckwheat. I am already, in two weeks, 3.5 pounds lighter. The best part of this is that I do not think I have ever felt so stuffed in my life! I have only ever counted calories once and it was a waste of time. This way I am tracking my weight with a weekly weigh in and just eating good food, and boy is it working. Plus, barley is 55p a bag so my bank balance likes it too.

In my 43 years on Earth I think I might have weighed myself four or five times so I am hardly obsessive, but now that the kids are old enough that I do not have to spend every single minute refereeing their skirmishes or just keeping them alive, I have time to focus on my health much more. This is bringing great results. Having spent over a decade doing whatever exercise I could and eating what I can as best as I could I now relish this second innings of living. Any parent knows that the first ten years of child rearing are nonstop sacrifice, impossible to plan or work around and you spend most of your time exhausted. Now I get to take them out with me and they can be exhausted!

I am very much enjoying trail running. I have never been a fast runner really so I have nothing to prove on that front, but I can endure quite a lot so right now I am focused on off road activities and working out the best planning for nutrition. It seems that fasting of some kind works brilliantly – I even climbed Whernside in a fasted state – and thinking more about food is working. I have been a vegan for years and years but to get the best from myself means that my enemy is sugar. I really cannot believe the magnitude of difference that it makes to my physique if I stop eating it completely. All of the reading I am doing says this, and it all advocates fasting regularly and also straining the body, meaning to push hard in terms of endurance.

I guess that this week the results will prove me right or wrong.

How to go From Couch to 5K in Four Days. Bonus Level: Records Broken Also

After outlining my running ambitions previously I managed to get injured practically the next day. No good deed goes unpunished, right? I guess I asked for it really. Even more astounding is that the injury was in fact gout. That is right, a (then) almost, (now) completely teetotal, vegan, twenty five year + veteran cyclist, runner and swimmer received a diagnosis of gout. Unbelievable. I can only presume that it runs in the family because you do not get lower risk than me for gout, typically the disease of ale swilling, red meat guzzling, Henry VIII type bloaters. Ho hum, so it goes. I have beat it into retreat with careful diet management, dispensing with crap shoes, exercising and resting properly and so forth, and now I am back on the trail.

How I Did Couch to 5K in Four Days

As silly as it sounds, I just did it. I have noticed that, for me at least, when I take a break from running the first three or four stints back on the road are like dragging a sack of lead around. Only after I push through this do I start feeling the Afterglow of Champions (I just made that up but I am so trademarking it). The sense that, suddenly, out of nowhere, the agony of laborious effort is receding and suddenly I feel as though I can run a marathon. It is a great feeling and I appreciate it more and more with age as my body starts to need more work to maintain great health and performance.

The sequence is as folows:

    Day one: 2 miles
    Day two: 2.5 miles
    Day three: 3 miles (probably 5K)
    Day four: 3.5 miles (definitely 5K)

On the way I scored my fastest 5K and recorded several fastest miles, with my current best being 10:30, which is bang average really, but still an improvement. All of these runs were done in a fasted state. I am still fasting 16/8 and intend for that arrangement to be permanent. Right now my trousers are falling down as the weight is falling off me, and I am not fat at all, but I am shedding residual body fat so quickly that I need new clothes already.

I have to once again acknowledge the power of incremental change. Ever since I was a wee nipper I have known its power, as my mum stopped smoking when I was very young, and ran to the traffic lights on our road and back. Eventually she ran multiple marathons. It is that simple to me. Start where you can, go where you want, do a little bit more the next day. Small beginnings, no matter how insignificant they may seem in the moment, yield results you could never dream of because no matter how little you do, it is more than nothing.

Here in England the NHS is always pushing Couch to 5K as a great achievement, and for sure it is for anyone, but simply by pushing myself pretty gently in increments I am already there. At this rate hitting marathon distances by the end of the year seems trivial. Doubtlessly it will not be that simple, but it will not be that hard either, provided I give the effort that I know I can and I do not get injured. Combining this with a high protein, low GI diet I am making gains that seem remarkable but which are really just good outcomes based on the science.

My ambitions to run ultra distances are intact, as is my body and I am going to do it if it kills me. Remember folks, it does not matter who you were yesterday as long as you are better tomorrow. Past is prologue, the future is for gods!

Strava Data

Quarantine Recipe: Lemon and Lime Quinoa with Chickpeas, Turmeric and Garlic

Obviously during quarantine I have had plenty of time on my hands, and with my exercise being short runs or long, slow cycle rides with the kids I am not posting them as they are wholly unremarkable. I have, however, had time to cook and create recipes, and this post is one such. I designed this as a rustic, simple meal that is ideal recovery food to eat after exercising. Best of all, it can be made in bulk and eaten all week, or that is the way I do it anyway. Chickpeas are packed with good fat to make you full, protein for muscle recovery and they have a good nutrient density per calorie. Plus chickpeas are beans and as Dan Buettner of the Blue Zones fame established, beans are the basis of the diets of the longest lived people on Earth. Show me a centenarian and I will show you somebody who ate beans their whole life. Turmeric also is a natural anti-inflammatory. Quinoa is a grain that has a super low glycemic index score meaning that your insulin will not spike and there will be no food hangover. It is very versatile and will taste of whatever you use to flavour it.

Ingredients

  • 300 grams of uncooked quinoa
  • 100 grams of dried chickpeas soaked in lightly salted water overnight
  • 1 lime
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Drain and thoroughly rinse the chickpeas, then set them boiling in a pan for thirty minutes – this can be done the previous day if that suits your schedule
  2. Put the quinoa in a large pot, add the stock and the turmeric, and simmer on medium
  3. Chop or mince the garlic, then zest and and juice the lemon and lime
  4. Once the quinoa has absorbed the stock completely turn of the heat, rinse using a sieve and cold water and return to the same pot after giving it a quick clean to get rid of residue
  5. Now combine the chickpeas and quinoa in the pot, mixing through
  6. Add the cayenne pepper and chopped garlic clove, mix through
  7. Add the citrus zest and juice, stir through and season to taste with salt and black pepper
At this point it is up to you whether you reheat it or serve it cold. It tastes great either way. You could even improvise and stuff pita breads with it, or serve on a sort of Greek flatbread, gyro style. This recipe is 3-4 servings so you are all set for the week when it comes to eating!

Resveratrol – The Fountain of Youth?

‘Who wants to live forever?’ So asked one Freddie Mercury. Well, actually I do. In addition to an aspirin a day and Lion’s Mane fungi I commenced taking resveratrol around six months ago. I previously recommended the work of David Sinclair and his book, Lifespan, and this work is where I take my zeal for resveratrol, an extract taken from red wine grapes. Sinclair outlines an excellent case for the use of this and metformin, a diabetes drug that may have anti-ageing properties. I am not taking metformin and right now I am not intending to do so as the side effects are apparently quite serious. It is worth noting right now that Sinclair does not recommend any drug that he himself does not take, so at least he clearly believes in it rather than claiming it is good without backing that up with actions.

Why do this? Because I love living and I want to see as much of the world whilst I am physically fit and capable as I can. Death will get us all in the end, but until then I want it all.

Cognitive Health and Longevity

Lion’s Mane Fungus
Lion’s Mane Fungus

How often do we spend time on physical fitness without ever giving a moment’s thought to what is going on in our heads? I know I have been guilty of this in the past, which is especially heinous for me given that so much of my identity and my pride is tied up in my intellect and my cognitive capabilities.

My current audiobook on the go is Lifespan by David Sinclair. The subject is his quest to cure ageing and I can recommend this remarkable book to all and sundry. Among the many things he discusses, one such is cognitive health, and I have been inspired as a result to research this. This in turn led me to one of my favourite fellow geeks, Paul Stamets. Below he is talking to Joe Rogan about Lion’s Mane mushroom.

I have started taking this supplement as it is proven to stimulate neurogenesis and remylenate neural tissues and nerve fibres. I think that we are on the edge of a revolution in medical therapies for ageing itself and early adoption may work well for me, and anyone else getting in on the action. If you want to live a cognitively healthy existence well into your twilight years, and by god I do, then this looks to be effective.

Recipe: Flambed Peaches with Citrus Cashew Cream

This is a knickers off dessert, as in serve this to a lady on date number three and watch her knickers fly off! This is a recipe that calls for you to flambé, i.e. ignite alcohol in the pan, so please be careful. You can see how to do it on YouTube, but if you’re not sure then don’t make this recipe.

Ingredients

  1. 4-5 peaches, stoned and sliced
  2. 2 tbsp of rum
  3. 3 tbsp sugar
  4. Zest and juice of a citrus fruit of your choice – I used a lime
  5. 100g cashews, soaked in boiling water to soften
  6. 100g icing sugar plus a little more for dusting
  7. Soy milk

Method

  • Heat a skillet very hot, then add the sugar and caramelise it
  • Add your peaches, reduce the heat and toss well in the caramel
  • Now you flambé. Take the pan off the heat and we’ll away from the flame, then add the rum and then ignite it. Be very careful and be sure you do this safely
  • Once the alcohol is burnt off the flames will stop, turn off the heat and leave whilst you make your citrus cream
  • Blend the icing sugar, cashews and soy milk to make a smooth cream. It’s up to you how thick you make it, obviously more milk will thin it out.
  • Pour into a jug and then whisk in the juice and zest. This will add air and lighten the cream a little
  • Serve by layering the peaches shortbread or some other similar type of biscuit, pour on some of the cream, then some of the rum sauce, and finally dust with icing sugar

Delicious dessert.