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Friday, 28 October 2016

53% protein - that's good, right?!

coconut multipower bar

At the moment, my Instagram feed is full of people opening boxes of the latest banana flavoured Grenade bars.  I've never tried a Grenade bar, but these things seem to be 'the bomb' in the world of fitness bloggers and macro counters.

If you've read any of my previous posts, you'll know that despite trying to fool myself into thinking that I might be a 'health and fitness blogger', I actually am doing a pretty bad job.  And while I'd love Grenade to send me a box full of their bars (hint hint Grenade!) I'd be reviewing them purely on taste because 23g of protein means nothing to me, I do like the fact they're called carb killa's though, and for that reason alone, I'd probably eat a box full in one go.

Anyway, the lovely people at Multipower have been following my quest to get fit and healthy, and whilst they know I'm not really any good at the science of it all, they keep sending me their products to review, and I'm not complaining.

multipower protein bars

Last time it was their protein smoothie's which got a big thumbs up from me, this time it's their new low sugar high protein bars.  Again, the protein content means nothing to me, but emblazoned on the front of the bars it declares '53% protein' and I figure, that's gotta be good.

I haven't tried many protein bars, ok, I haven't tried any other than these, so I have nothing to compare to, but I imagine they're a bit like a glorified chocolate bar, only not as sickly sweet and you can fool yourself into thinking you're eating something that's good for you.  However, a little internet research tells me that's not always the case, and actually a lot of them have as much calories and sugar as a normal chocolate bar...not ideal.

I guess the appeal of them is the ease, I'm often leaving a workout knowing a won't be eating again for a couple of hours, and don't have the time (or kitchen if I'm not heading home) to whizz up a quick shake, so carrying a protein bar in my bag means I've always got it to hand, and it's a quick fix after my class. 

 
So what do I think? Well in terms of the nutritional information, they're 200 calories a bar, they've got 23g of protein and 1.5g of sugar.  Being a previous myfitnesspal junkie, those 200 calories don't please me, but, I understand in the world of protein bars, this is actually pretty good. And 1.5g of sugar? Yeah, that's nice and low too.

But back to the 200 calories, in all honestly, I'd rather eat a mars bar...now I know that's not the point, but these aren't quite hitting the spot for me.

The cookies and cream, and berry yoghurt are a slightly odd texture, really chewy and rubbery, is that normal? Well if it is, it isn't for me.  Also, given they're so low in sugar they're super sweet, but again, that might just be me.  If you're a fan of yoghurt coated raisins/berries then you'll love the berry one, but it's just not to my taste.

The chocolate and coconut on the other hand, I'm a much bigger fan of.  The coconut was kinda like a more chewy bounty, and the chocolate tasted more like your standard chocolate bar.  

I guess not being a connosseur, I have nothing to compare them too, but in terms of ease they're a winner.  The coconut and chocolate I'd definitely have again.  The berry and cookies n' cream, I'll leave for those with a sweeter tooth.

And I'm guessing these are good for my macros too, right?!

gym bag

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

the mid afternoon office slump

salad lunch

I know I'm not the first person to say it and I definitely won't be the last, but working in an office really doesn't help with my attempts at sticking to a healthier diet.  It's rare that a day goes by without someone buying a packet of biscuits, cakes, chocolates, doughnuts, sweets to share with everyone, and they're always placed directly in my eye line.  I can practically smell them while I sit at my desk typing away.

I was reading Women's Health earlier this week, and there was an article about how to avoid putting on weight while at work...I don't mean literally putting on weight while you're sitting at your desk, starting the day weighing 10st and leaving weighing 14, but all the things that contribute to a those muffin tops within the office.

The article mentioned various 'fat traps' from things like being too busy to take a proper lunch break, being stressed, and apparently even being too cold can have an affect (who knew being chilly makes your body store fat...on goes the heating!).  I'm generally pretty good at taking my lunch break, if I can, I'll even squeeze in a yoga class, I'm not usually too stressed, and in the main, the office is pretty toasty.  

But the one that did leap out? 'The Food Bully' - this is that person that always encourages you to have a slice of cake, a cheeky doughnut, an extra chocolate, because it's someone's birthday, it'd be rude not to, it's the bake off tonight, you catch my drift! And apparently, I quote WH, 'if just one of your team is obese, your own risk double's'.  Now there's no-one in my office that is obese, in fact, I think we're a pretty trim team as it goes, but I do sit on a bank of desks with two 19 year old guys (yes, I feel old every day!) who eat whatever and whenever they want.  So trying to tuck in my lettuce leaves and plain chicken while they're chowing down on a Maccy's D and a chocolate muffin for pud isn't always so easy.

Over the years, I've actually got pretty good at food prepping, and taking in my own lunch (just take a look at my Instagram to see what I'm usually eating at my desk), but recently I've relaxed my diet, and the treat table seems to be piled higher than ever.  The fact we take part in our game of Bake Off doesn't help the situation, and it would rude for me not to sample the competition.  Our office Bake Off came to an end last week, so I'm determined to try and get back into eating better, my meals are generally good, I just need to curb my snacking.

drawer snacks - wotsits and cereal bar

I can't be the only one that hits 3pm and hits that wall.  You know the sort I mean, the sort where you're struggling to keep your eyes open, all the numbers in the spreadsheet in front of you are jumping about and the thought of concentrating for another 2 and a half hours is enough to make you get up and walk out there and then? Ok so maybe that's an exaggeration, but you catch my drift.  

And it's true, I'm not that only one who feels like that,  when my dad was still working, he was very much an advocate of the 3pm banana, he believed it's what got him through the rest of the afternoon, I should take note.

carrot sticks and cucumber

Anyway, the good people at GoToMeeting have come up with a list of snacks that are not only healthy, but also boost energy and productivity, something that I definitely require when I hit my 3pm slump.  

So it's goodbye to the stash of chocolate covered cereal bars and low calorie crisps I've got hiding in my top drawer, and not to reach out for crackers and houmous (high in protein, iron and antioxidants apparently) and yoghurt and banana smoothies (lots of fibre to maintain fullness, and full of magnesium to help maintain energy levels).  Despite the benefits of eating hard boiled eggs, I'd still like my colleagues to be my friend so I'm not sure I'll be whipping those out mid-afternoon any time soon, but I'll definitely start thinking about reaching for a handful of trail mix before I crack open the biscuit tin.

Ok, that's a lie, I'm not a big nut fan, so I'll definitely be thinking about the biscuit tin when I open the trail mix packet, and let's be honest, the raw cacao at the top of this list of 15 energy boosting snacks is definitely the one that's got the most of my attention...

raw cacao
*sponsored post

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

a 'hate-hate' relationship with running

Stretching

If you don't already know, (then that's a miracle as I moan about it often enough across ALL social media), I have a 'hate-hate' relationship with running, but there is some crazy determination within me that means I won't completely give it up.

Over the years I've given running a go, and when I say I've given it a go, I head out for one run, manage about ten minutes, of which nine of those are walking, and I've headed home vowing never to do that again.  Until the next year, when I repeat the above.

In January, I set myself a New Year's aim to take part in Total Warrior, and with that came a target to be able to run 10k by July.  And somehow I did it, in April, 3 months ahead of schedule.

I committed to running at least once a week, every week, and I stuck to it, gradually increasing my distance.  Now I wasn't fast, but that wasn't my aim, I just kept plodding on, and somehow I did it.  I still didn't enjoy it, but I'd developed a more neutral, shall we say, feeling towards it.

6 months on, and it's all gone to pot.  I had a couple of months of not doing any running post Total Warrior, as I had zero motivation, but didn't want to lose what I'd built up. So I set myself a new goal.  To run every week a minimum of 5k, not a long distance, and no pressure on time or speed, just to make myself keep it up.

Well, that hasn't been going quite to plan.  It's been more like 5k every fortnight, and on Sunday? Maybe we shouldn't talk about Sunday.  I ran 1k, yep a whole 5 minutes before giving up.  Ok, I'm even exaggerating with that, it was a little longer than 5 minutes.  I got a stitch, I sat down on a bench for 10 minutes, then I walked home.

Running

I was reading Char's post yesterday 'Thoughts I have when I'm running' and it really made me smile, I've been there, I've felt all those things, and it's good to know I'm not the only one, so I thought I'd compile my own list:

1. You can do this
2. You definitely can't do this
3.  You haven't even ran 1k yet
4. Ok, you've ran 1k, but that's not enough to now stop
5.  I wonder how many calories I've burnt
6.  I wonder if it's enough to eat a burger when I get home
7.  Hrmm, maybe I should just go home now
8. How far is home? Can I even make it home?
9.  I can't breathe
10.  I think I'm dying
11. I'm really hating every second of this
12.  Like, every single second
13.  Try to think about something else, like appreciating this lovely view...
14.  I'm so tired
15.  2k? I've only done 2k? 
16.  Ok, so 2k is like a third of what I want to do, so two thirds to go
17.  Maybe I'll just run 3k today
18.  Hrmm, if I go that way there's a big hill, maybe I'll just do a second loop instead
19.  I hate hills
20.  Hills are the worst
21.  3k, I'll head home now
22.  Just. keep. going.
23.  I've stopped, why have I stopped?
24.  It's definitely time to go home, my legs won't work anymore

And then, I give up and walk home.  This is basically how every run goes, it's like having a devil and an angel on each shoulder, and I know, if I could just stop thinking like that, and try to just focus on running then I'd probably do better, but the reality is, I don't think I'm ever going to enjoy running.

Running

But, I am determined to stick with it, and me and the mr have agreed, the next time I run 10k, we're going to treat ourselves to a dirty Maccy D's for lunch.  Yes I know, it's ridiculous but occasionally in life you just gotta visit those golden arches.

So if there's any runners out there who can offer me some suggestions, do let me know, because I'm not giving up...

(I said that last time!)


Friday, 14 October 2016

Porridge a day, keeps the cold away?!

lots of porridgeRumour has it that Monday was World Porridge Day, now by some weird coincidence I have fully been embracing porridge breakfasts in the last couple of weeks.  Ok, so it's not coincidence at all, it's the fact that the weather has dropped about 10 degrees which means I always just want something warm and satisfying in the morning.  Fruit and yoghurt just doesn't cut the mustard.

Once you've started having porridge for breakfast more than once a week it's time to admit that Autumn is officially here, well that and thick black tights, ankle boots and contemplating whether the weather is quite at the hat and scarf level of coldness yet.  For the record, it's not, but it can't come quick enough because I LOVE bringing out the beanies.

Anyway, as it was world porridge day, and as I've been consuming so much of the stuff, I thought I'd share with you some of my recent oaty creations! As a kid, porridge was a boring, lumpy mush, usually a weird grey colour (I'm thinking Oliver Twist style gruel) that I refused to eat.  However in recent years people seem to have gone crazy for creating amazing Instagram worthy bowls with exciting toppings and unique flavours, and we all now how I love to jump on a trend bandwagon.  

Now I'm certainly no connoisseur (check out Sallytangle to see some proper taste combos) and if you follow me on Instagram you'll know I tend to keep thing pretty simple, but in my opinion simple is sometimes just best, so here's my current top porridge toppings (try saying that 5 times quickly):

banana and maple syrup

First up, the classic.  Oats and milk (standard), half a banana mashed and mixed through while cooking, then topped with the other half, a handful of raisins and a drizzle of maple syrup.  Maple Syrup and porridge go together like eggs and bacon, so I suggest if you haven't yet tried a maple syrup drizzle, then now is the time.

berries and coconut

Frozen berries and coconut.  I always have frozen berries in the freezer but never seem to remember to get them out to defrost.  But I have discovered if you pop them in the microwave for about a 1 minute, they defrost enough so they're no longer frozen but still stay fairly chilled, which actually works really well alongside the warm porridge.  This combo includes oats and alpro coconut milk, topped with frozen/not frozen berries, a sprinkling of dessicated coconut and a spoonful of Bounty spread, so good!

granola

Granola - this one was a recent discovery, we didn't have much in the way of toppings in the house, so I figured why not top oats, with more oats, but it works!  So sticking with the usual oat and milk combo, I added a handful (or two!) of granola, banana (always), maple syrup and extra raisins, the granola adds a nice crunch and gives that little something something.

lotus biscoff

Last but not least, this my friends, is a porridge game changer.  A simple spoonful of biscoff spread, oh my! I never thought I could get so excited about porridge, but knowing I've got a jar of this in cupboard actually helps get me out of bed in the morning (easily pleased!) but seriously, I urge you all go right now, buy a jar and try putting a spoonful in with your morning bowl of oats, it is incredible! 

And of course, I couldn't give a little mention to my old favourite banana and Nutella, you just can't go wrong with that combination, but despite the fact I eat this on an almost weekly basis, I didn't have a photo so instead here's a picture of what also usually happens on a weekly basis.  My name is Caroline and I have a Nutella addiction.

Nutella
My Instagram feed is filled with nut butter topped porridge, I can't stand any of the nut butters, so I'm on a mission to make lotus biscoff the new trend, let me know if you try it!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

20,000 steps and a lot of carbs

a hotel breakfast

a hotel breakfast

The thing I miss the most about living in London is the food, now what does that say about me? 

Since I first left Carlisle, over ten years ago, the restaurant scene has definitely got better, before I left we had about 5 Italian restaurants, and 2 Indians, now we have 36 Italians, and 12 Indians.  I jest, but that's what it feels like.  

I definitely can't complain about the options available now, but London just has so much more (I guess it is the capital of the UK so that probably explains a lot) and I just have this real thing about asian food, but I think it'll be some time before Carlisle gets a Dim Sum restaurant.

Anyway, I usually manage to get myself down to London every few months (usually when my tummy's rumbling), and luckily good ol' Virgin trains means it takes just over 3 hours these days, it's hard to believe that when I went on a trip down south with my parents over 15 years ago it took nearly twice that, and every time I visit, I come armed with a list of restaurants I have to visit.

Last weekend, was no different.  The mr and I were heading down for a wedding in Essex, so tagged on a couple of extra days, for me to add on a couple of extra pounds.

Friday night saw us at Rossopomodoro in Hoxton, my friend recommended it and said it was her new favourite pizza place.  Now the service wasn't great, but the food? Yeah the food was pretty good, when you have to undo the top button of jeans after just your starter you know you're in for a treat.  It was an absolute carb-fest, fried pizza dough balls, pasta croquettes, arancini and crocche, and that was just a starter, obviously a forced a pizza down too, and rolled out the restaurant.

rossopomodoro starter

rossopomodoro pizza
The next day, the mr and I had planned to do a bit of shopping with a stop off at The Detox Kitchen for lunch, I had visions of a super healthy lunch that would make the perfect blog post.  But arriving at Carnaby Street with sore feet to discover there was only takeaway available, and in desperate need of giving my legs a rest, we wandered round the corner to Bill's.  I'm not complaining, I love Bill's, but a shared mezze platter and some fried halloumi wasn't quite blog post worthy.

bill's mezze platter

More shopping and a wander along the King's Road, meant the 20,000 plus steps we'd done that day was a good enough excuse for me to head out for dinner.  As mentioned, I bloody love Dim Sum, char sui pork buns are one of my favourite foods, in fact, if I was on death row, I'm pretty sure they'd be part of my last meal (anybody else ever play the 'last meal on death row' game?).  We were staying a 5 minute walk from Charlotte Street so heading to Dim T, usually, Ping Pong is my first choice, but tired legs meant we went for the easier option.  And I'm not complaining, I got my pork buns, along with salt and pepper squid and after the BIGGEST portion of nasi goreng, we rolled home.


dim t char sui buns

dim t nasi goreng
Sunday was wedding day, and with a few hours to spare in the morning, we hit up the hotel gym, how's that for commitment? However, if you follow me over on Instagram, you'll know it wasn't such a good session, I don't know what to do in gyms (have I mentioned that before?) so after a 15 minute run on the treadmill, a bit of a fanny about with some weights, I took a few photos and headed for breakfast.  

hotel breakfast

Now it's fair to say it was an indulgent weekend, and that's without even mentioning the EPIC dessert table at the wedding (just look at this table!) but when I'm in London, I've gotta make the most of being in London, and we walked what must have been miles, so it's all back to that thing we call balance, right? Right.

So now I need new recommendations for my next visit, what's your favourite? And tell me it's not just me that eats my body weight when I visit!

Friday, 7 October 2016

sunday strolls - my favourite kind of exercise

sunday strolls

sunday strolls

If you've been reading this blog for a while, despite the fact I promote it as a 'health and fitness' blog, most of the time I don't enjoy much of the exercise that I do.  

But, on Sunday afternoons, if the weather is dry and there's no housework to be done (am I kidding, there's always housework to be done!), then me and the Mr like to go out for a wander.

I'm lucky, although I live in the city, and only a ten minute walk to the centre, I have two beautiful parks pretty much on my doorstep, we're also a short journey to the lake district (not that we make the most of it) and are surrounding by countryside just minutes away in the car.

So on Sunday's, we walk.  It might just be to the local park, in fact that's my favourite, or it might be further afield, but it's so lovely to get out, enjoy each other's company and not have the distractions of our phone, the television, work or things to do in the house.  Ok, sometimes my phone does distract, but I just bloody love Instagram stories and so I have to stop for a quick snap/video/reply to whatsapp...

talkin tarn

lanercost priory

talkin tarn
I enjoy walking, it clears the head, does havoc with my hair (especially in Cumbria), and burns a few calories, which is proving more and more necessary with my sugar addiction.  I never watch the clock to see if the hour is nearly up, I never find myself hand on knees panting, praying it'll all be over soon, I don't suffer temporary blindness as sweat as drips in my eyes and I don't bemoan doing it all again in a couple of days. 

So there's this thing called LISS Cardio Training, it stands for Low Intensity Steady State, and apparently walking can be classified as that, strolling? I'm not so sure, but I like to think my wanders are doing me some good. It's something to do with the body needing oxygen to burn fat, the lower the intensity, the more oxygen available.  I don't understand the science of it all, but it's good to know that on Sunday's, I don't need to worry about sweating my ass off, as long as I can get out and clock up a few steps on my fitbit, then I'm doing good.  
And if I can take a few pretty photos along the way, then that's great too.

lanercost priory

talkin tarn walk

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

a plea - because i have no idea what i'm doing

One thing I'm beginning to realise as part of this fitness journey is that I haven't really got a clue what I'm doing. I want to get fit, I'd like to get really toned, and I know I should eat better, but I have no idea if I'm going about any of that in the right way.  Ok, I know the eating better thing I'm definitely not going about in the right way, the Ben and Jerry's keeps calling my name, but you know what I mean...

I go to classes because there is a teacher at the front of the room shouting at me, telling me what to do, and pushing me to keep going.  Put me in a gym, and I have no idea how to use any equipment, how many reps I should be doing, how heavy I should be lifting, and how long I should be running.

leg raises
I follow all sorts of different fitness accounts on Instagram, yogis, weight lifters, runners, you name it, I probably follow it. What I do notice though, is that the weight lifting gym bunnies are the ones I really aspire to, they always have the lean physique and defined muscles, they talk about leg days, arm days and back days, counting their macros and upping their protein.  All of which, means absolutely nothing to me, but I like what I see.

instagram
I don't really want to start counting macros, it seems like too much of a faff, and I know if I go to a gym and attempt to motivate myself through a workout, it's never gonna happen, we just have to see what I'm like when it comes to running to know that, but I would like some direction. Is 6 classes a week really working? Is a combination of circuits, yoga, running and combat having any effect? 

I've definitely put a bit of weight on in the last couple of months, and I know that's mainly due to my sweet tooth and booze filled weekends. 

And I can't see my abs anymore, not that there was much to see, but I was slowly but surely seeing some definition, and I'm genuinely sad about that.

abs
So I guess what I need is some direction.  Are classes going to work for me, or should I get my ass down to the gym?! Do I get a PT and give up what I'm doing now? Or do I carry on as I am, but get my act together and tighten up my diet.

I'll never be one of those people who live, breathe and sleep healthy lifestyle/healthy living, while I like the idea of it I also enjoy chocolate, wine, and burgers far too much.  So what I need to find is a happy medium, but ideally one that's going to get me more ripped than I am now, because I really would, one day, to see those abs again.

So if there's any personal trainers in Carlisle reading this, or someone who'll just come and shout at me in the gym, but can also give me some guidance on what I'm eating, and make me run that 1k further each time, then get in touch, because I'd love to hear from you.
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