Well, since I realised yesterday's post was nothing more than • 34.5% blatant vegetarian agit-prop; and • 65.5% unbridled and horrifying vanity . . . it's occurred to me to try and atone by posting a couple of personal favourite health and fitness tidbits (which might actually be of use to some of you out there).
It's no exaggeration to say I love these things more than life itself. (And, perforce, slightly less than Anna. It's very important that I stress this.)
I've been slurping down various flavours and recipes of smoothies for, oh, about 12 years now. I've cycled through a fair few recipes and here's the one I've landed on. I have the same thing every single day of the week. It's not the single healthiest recipe imaginable. (Blueberries, for instance, will health any smoothie up enormously.) But if the value is considered as a multiple of 1) healthiness x 2) low caloriness x 3) sheer mouth orgasmicness . . . then I think this one scores about 145 billion. That's a lot. Here's how you make it.
- Equipment: You'll need a blender. Ideally, you'll need a really good blender, with a really big pitcher. Ideally you want to look for something with at least 350 watts of power and at least a 1.5 litre pitcher. (Mine is 500 watts and 2 litres.) You'll also want a glass pitcher, not plastic; and an aluminum or stainless base, not plastic. In particular, you want to pay close attention to the coupling, or clutch this is the little circular flywheel bit on the very bottom of the blender, which meshes with a similar bit in the base. It's where the power is transferred from the motor to the blades. This is invariably the part that goes to hell first, with heavy use. You want to look for metal or a very solid rubber piece not plastic, and definitely not cheap, flimsy plastic. Trust me here. I'd estimate I've gone through, oh, probably 15 or 20 blenders in my time.
- Ingredients: Here's what I put in mine, and why.
- 2 medium-to-large bananas. There's no getting around it, bananas are the base of pretty much every smoothie. You'd better like bananas.
- 2 medium-to-large strawberries. Berries are the unrivalled number 2 smoothie ingredient. Virtually all berries work. (Though you might not like sucking up the seeds in blackberries and raspberries.) I use strawberries mainly because they go aces with my chocolate.
- 1/2 litre soya milk. I use the unsweetened stuff white sugar (even if they call it "evaporated cane juice") never helped anyone. In the UK, my brand is Sainsbury's Unsweetened; Silk in the U.S.
- 1-2 scoops soya protein isolate powder. You'll note this is an awful lot like the soya milk, without the water. I basically use half (milk) and half (powder), for the following reasons: • the powder is all protein, with none of the carbs; • the powder is a heck of a lot cheaper than the milk. I still use half milk to keep it from being too chalky. (Though, notably, if I use all milk, it now doesn't taste chalky enough to me.) You can get this at Holland & Barrett in the UK; and GNC in the US. Update: I now use pea protein isolate powder: amino-complete, not pricey, virtually tasteless and there are at least some questions still outstanding about consuming a ton of soy.
- 2 cups water (roughly). This is, basically, the bit that combines with the soya powder to make it 'cheap, high-protein, no-carb' soya milk.
- 1 square sugar-free (not unsweetened) dark chocolate. What can I say? It adds a few calories. But when it blends up, the flecked chocolate in all that icy creaminess makes your eyes roll back in your head.
- 2 tablespoons milled flaxseed. I've added this in fairly recently. As a vegan, I can use the omega-3s; and I find I really like the taste and texture. Stodges it up nicely.
- Splenda to taste. I've got a sweet tooth, so for me that's a lot. One secret that took me a long time to work out: It's possible to get pure sucralose powder, rather than regular Splenda. Here's why that's better:
- No filler. Sucralose is damned sweet so much so that Splenda cuts it 100-to-1 with maltodextrin. While the maltodextrin is very low cal, it's not no-cal. And it's also pure carbohydrate (if you're cool on that). Anyway, when you buy Splenda, you're paying for an awful lot of maltodextrin at sucralose prices.
- Less spooning. If you're like me, you might be spooning as many as 8-12 tablespoons of Splenda into your 2-litre frappe. An eighth of a teaspoon of pure sucralose is a lot easier. (This is also why this doesn't work so well for your tea or coffee.)
- Much cheaper. 4oz of sucralose powder costs $74.00 and lasts me, I don't know, six months? In the same period I'd go through God knows how many dozens of £3.49 boxes of Splenda.
- 1 kilogram of ice. (Give or take less if your blender is smaller than 2 litres.)
- Put all ingredients except ice in blender. Blend until a smooth puree. This should take up about half, or a bit more, of the available space in the pitcher.
- Add the ice as full as you can and still make the damned thing blend. (If it's too thick, add water; too thin, add ice. I prefer the maximum possible ice.) Blend until the ice is nicely frappéd.
- Pour a glass at a time and drink with a straw.
- Some tips:
- If blender is very full, and/or frappe very thick, you may need to stop and shake it to get it blending again.
- If it keeps getting air in it and whipping around instead of blending, you may not have enough banana. Banana essentially acts as a 'binding agent' here, keeping everything smooth and flowing.
- I find I need to add several more cubes of ice between the first glass and the second glass. (Though this may be a result of my problem with "ingredient inflation," though of course the ice is also melting while you're drinking.) Find the sweetness, thickness, and general 'richness' that work for you.
So there it is: a bunch of healthy fruit and soy, a fair bit of protein, hardly any calories and an ocean of sheer mouth joy. It really seems far too good to be true. I have at least one pitcher of this every day immediately after running if a no-worky-in-office day, or first thing when I get home if an office day. I sit and read and slurp and get very, very happy. You may thank me at your leisure.
I haven't the vaguest idea how anyone does any kind of exercise (outside of social sports which, admittedly, are probably a better idea all round…) without music and I mean suitable music. My workouts and runs live and die by my workout playlist. Anyway, here are a couple of tricks that I did on today's run, and which occur to me to share.
- Sprint to music that's "too fast". I hope everyone knows the beauty of running, and hearing a song that's spot-on with one's natural pace, and running right on the beat. That rocks. It's helpful to have an idea of one's natural cadence personally, I find I'm about a 130-140bpm kind of runner.
However, lately we're being told that you get more training effect by doing short spurts of very high exertion, rather than just slogging on for a long time. So, if you run, that means sprints. So: queue up a song that's maybe 125-150% of your comfortable running cadence but here's the thing: the song has to seriously kick ass and get ready to take off.
I found today that my perfect sprinting song is the unbelievably great "Paul Udarov Metal Revision" remix of Blue Stahli's already stupidly sublime and ass-kicking song Ultranumb. Try it on.
- Air-drumming for upper body workout. If, by some wild chance, you happen to be an irrepressible air drummer like me, put on a song with a totally irresistible drum part for instance Metallica's immortal Sad But True and flail your way through your run. Just mind you don't get run over, or cymbal crash a pedestrian in the head.
If you're looking to juice up your workout songs folder, by the way, I'd personally say you should have every single one of these in there, forever.
If you've been following along, carefully and long, you might have picked up where I was having some just ferocious problems with my legs. They're now completely fixed, and here is (I believe) how I did it:
- Continue running on soft surfaces i.e. grass and dirt. I'd always done this. I won't run on pavement for one second longer than necessary to get to the park.
- Ditch the god&^%* trail-running shoes. Since I run almost exclusively offroad, it seemed intuitive enough to always buy trail-running shoes. But here are two things about trail-running shoes:
- They have solid, tough, plastic-molded treads on the bottom.
- They have rather less cushioning (since it's assumed the trail will provide some).
Just as a teaser: I've recently finished both TRANSCEND Nine Steps to Living Well Forever, by Raymond Kurzweil and Terry Grossman, MD; and The Four-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss. There's just a daunting amount of info in these books some of it perhaps crackpot-y, much of it indisputably sound, and a certain amount (probably a very personal amount) useful. The great challenge of these books seems to be determining which bits you're actually going to embrace and act on i.e. what will translate into real and useful changes.
Coming soon as usual, precisely when I get around to it a run-down of my top take-aways from both of these pretty remarkable books.