My Fitness Story: Part One

Around four years ago I made the change from someone who occasionally messed around on the treadmill, and didn’t pay any attention to what I was eating, to a regular gym-goer who (finally) enjoys eating healthy. My interest in food came a few months after my new exercise regime, when I began to understand that in order to see continuous progress, my diet needed to aid my workouts.

Since this realisation, I have tried SO many different diets and styles of eating to the point where I have tried bulking, cutting, a coeliac diet, a pescatarian diet, a vegetarian diet and just about anything in between. After a stomach infection at the end of last summer, which left my gut short of several trillion good bacteria, this further heightened my interest in food and the complex ingredients of what actually goes into it. The research I conducted in order to simply stop a painful infection, actually brought up alarming results. So much so, that for the last time I finally changed my diet to one which works for me.

I have never coped well with excessive amounts of dairy produce. When I was younger I always had to have skimmed milk on my cereal, and I could never manage to stomach cream. But, it would infuriate me that I could happily enjoy eggs and have no repercussions, yet as soon as I touched a milkshake * sigh * I would instantly be overcome with a feeling of sickness. Through my research of, what feels like, the anatomy of a British cow, I now understand that it isn’t dairy itself which I am intolerant too, it’s the additives and preservatives in which is added to the likes of milk, cream and some cheeses which don’t agree with my gut.

This got me thinking whether other foods which contain various additives and preservatives, aka the majority of foods on the market, are also harmful. This then led my research to gluten. As Calvin Harris recently tweeted, the food which “everyone in LA is scared of”. Jokes aside, the fitness freaks of LA have a point. In order to ensure that bread, bagels and croissants survive shelf-life there can be up to 5 preservatives added, which are often what causes the instant bloated feeling. If you often feel lethargic after a pizza or pasta dish, then you may benefit from either switching to gluten-free, make sure you use a brand with no added preservatives, or opt for fresh bakery bread which is made on the day.

My next stomach culprit is refined sugar. Basically, the sugar which doesn’t occur naturally from agave, honey or fruit (raw sugar). Refined sugar can be a very hard ingredient to eliminate when you’re first beginning a healthy diet, as it is, worryingly, included in a HELL of a lot of snacks, cereals, yoghurts and carbonated drinks. Therefore, my advice, and the rules I tend to follow, is to not overthink about refined sugar when you’re eating out at a restaurant, as most meals will contain at least a trace, but on the days after your cheat day try to not consume any refined sugar. This may sound tricky, but simple tips I use are adding honey to a snack, eating berries and consuming organic, 100% dark chocolate, as these cure the cravings.

At this stage you might be wondering what in fact I do eat? Fair point. The answer to that is WHOLE FOODS. My staple diet is lots of fresh veggies, lean meats and fish. I try and make any sauces that I can myself, and I steer clear of processed food. For snacks I either have a small portion of fruit, such as 1 ripe banana or a handful of berries, or an energy or protein ball. This diet is often referred to as the ‘Paleo’ diet, upon where you have an exceedingly low in-take of grains, if you’re craving the likes of rice, pasta or granola then you simply always opt for gluten free, 8+ portions of fruit and veg a day and plenty of healthy protein. Oh, and white wine is also an element to the diet. Win, win.

For the first time in years, I finally feel like I’ve found the perfect diet for me. Everyone is different and no one diet will fit all, but in terms of how I feel both on the outside and the inside, this is definitely the healthiest I have ever felt.

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Weekly Food Order & Healthy Meal Plan

Nothing in this world makes me more excited than the delivery man ringing to say my weekly food shop is here.  Being in university, I find that one big order based on meal plans for each day saves time, money and it prevents (most of the time) snacking on the student union shop’s chocolate aisle.

I usually tend to stock up on staple food cupboard items such as pasta, rice, eggs and any cereal or granola in bulk once a month, therefore my weekly shop mainly consists of fresh food. After following a pescatarian diet for the past month, I am now back to having meat, but I still want to ensure I am getting the same large portions of fruit and vegetables as I was having with the medetarian based diet. Therefore, I have planned my meals around a guideline of 1/4 of protein, 1/4 carbs and 1/2 fruit or veg.

Food Order

  • Eggs
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Bananas
  • Koko Dairy Free Milk
  • Actimel Yoghurts
  • New potatoes with herbs
  • Gluten Free Pasta
  • Buckwheat Pancake Mix
  • Wholemeal Ciabatta Rolls
  • Genius Plain Bagels
  • Mixed Salad
  • Asparagus
  • Peppers
  • Sweetcorn
  • Tinned Tuna
  • Minced Meat
  • Cod and Parsley Fishcakes
  • Steak Burgers
  • Tilda Coconut Rice
  • Mixed Carrots and Peas
  • Smoked Salmon Slices
  • Nairns Oat Crackers
  • Roast Chicken Slices
  • Pears
  • Buckwheat Granola

I try to stick to breakfast, lunch, an afternoon snack and dinner. My meal portions vary depending on whether they’re pre or post workout, so if I’m going to the gym after breakfast I’ll have something small and energy fuelling then if I’m going later in the day I’ll have something bigger and then a smaller lunch.

Using the food order above, my meals this week will consist of:

Breakfast

  • Granola, Yoghurt and Fruit
  • Buckwheat Pancakes and Fruit
  • Salmon & Scrambled Egg Bagel
  • Mushroom and Spinach Omelette

Lunch

  • Sliced Chicken and Salad Ciabatta Roll
  • Tilda Rice, Salmon, Peppers & Asparagus
  • Cod fishcake, Spinach & Salad
  • Tuna & Sweetcorn Pasta
  • Sliced Chicken, New Potatoes & Peppers

Afternoon Snack

  • Blueberry, Strawberry & Banana Smoothie
  • Bagel & Prutella Hazelnut Protein Spread
  • Sliced Pear & Coconut Yoghurt
  • Sliced Banana & Honey Oat Crackers

Dinner

  • Low Fat Mince, Peppers, Mushrooms & Low Calorie Tomato Sauce
  • Fishcake, Carrots, Peas & New Potatoes
  • Ciabatta Steak Burger, Carrots, Peas & Salad
  • Salmon, Coconut Rice, Asparagus & Peppers
  • Tuna, Sweetcorn, Pepper & Spinach Pasta

What I Eat In A Day And Why

For many people the hardest aspect of losing weight, or toning up, is diet. Once you’ve established a routine, exercise quickly becomes addictive, but there is absolutely nothing addictive about choosing a riveta cracker over a chocolate fudge cake.

At

All.

Both the problem, and the benefit, of fitness social media accounts, is that the pictures of victoria secret model lookalikes posing on a Caribbean beach is enough to make you consider whether you can in fact live off a grape a day. But, if you dedicate some serious scrolling time, you’ll learn that the majority of these girls are actually consuming 2000+ calories a day, alongside exercise, they just know exactly what to eat.

So what should you be eating? I have changed, adapted & tweaked my diet frequently over the last four years depending on my goals and shape. Right now, I’m consuming 2000-2500 calories on days which I train Legs, Glutes & Arms and 2000 calories on a day where I train Abs. I separate my calories into 4 or 5 separate meals, as I find eating little and often gives me the best results, and I ALWAYS ensure I’m eating 5+ fruit and veggies a day (being a newly converted pescatraian helps).

This is a typical meal plan for a weight intensive day at the gym for me. It consists of whole foods, fruit, veggies, protein, carbs & healthy fats which all assist in achieving goals on the outside of your body, and making you feel good on the inside too.

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Pre Workout & Breakfast

  • 6 Strawberries
  • 10 Blueberries
  • 1 Banana
  • 4 tablespoons of ‘Oatly’ Oat Drink
  • 2 tablespoons of Coyo Coconut Yoghurt
  • Grenade Caramel Chaos Protein Bar

Using a blender, blend the strawberries, blueberries, banana, oat drink and yoghurt together. Pour into a bowl and then add the chopped up Grenade bar and any excess fruit. Smoothie bowls are a great way to consume a large majority of your 5 a day, and coupling it with a protein bar before your workout gives you the extra energy you need to smash your workout.

 

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Taken with breakfast

Every morning  I take one Zinc tablet and two Peppermint tablets with breakfast. Zinc helps build immunity as well as maintaining hormonal balance and the growth of your skin, hair and nails. Peppermint tablets assist in relaxing your stomach muscles and encourage sufficient digestion.

http://www.hollandandbarrett.com/shop/product/holland-barrett-extra-strength-oil-of-peppermint-capsules-200mg-60005010

http://www.hollandandbarrett.com/shop/product/holland-barrett-high-strength-zinc-tablets-15mg-60005711

 

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Taken after Breakfast (and each meal)

If you suffer with bloating after certain foods, or a big meal, then taking two capsules after eating helps to improve that uncomfortable feeling. Or, if you simply want to aid digestion then these work rapidly in assisting this. I take two after every big meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and then one after my snack.

https://www.philrichardsperformance.co.uk/index.php/super-digestive-enzymes.html

 

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Post Workout & Lunch

  • Tila Coconut Basmati Rice
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Asparagus

This meal takes under 5 minutes to prepare yet it’s filled with complex carbs, healthy fats and a source of veggies. I try to include asparagus with at least two meals a day as it’s a natural diuretic, meaning it’s great at cleansing your digestive system. Substituting salmon for a lean chicken is also a great combination.

 

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Afternoon Snack

  • Narins Oat Crackers
  • 1 Banana
  • 4 scoops of Muscle Food Prutella Hazelnut Spread

This is the perfect snack to have mid-afternoon if you need an extra boost (or to satisfy some sugar cravings). Another one of your five a day ticked off and a great source of protein from the Prutella spread which will continue to assist your muscles throughout the day.

http://www.musclefood.com/prutella-chocolate-hazelnut-spread.html/

 

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Dinner

  • 1/2 cup of Pasta
  • 4 Broccoli Stems
  • 6 Green Beans
  • 2 Stems of Asparague
  • 1/2 cup of Sweetcorn
  • Handle of Mixed Peppers
  • Cod Loin

With my dinner I like to pile on as many veggies as I can, alongside a sufficient carbs and protein hit. This is usually my last source of food during the day, unless I’m particularly hungry and fancy another snack, so I like it to be as filling as possible. Again, substituting the cod with another lean meat is equally as tasty.

This is just an example of one of my week day meal plans. I like to try and mix it up everyday to ensure I still get excited about making and planning food. However, even though I may change the rice to a wholewheat bagel, or substitute pasta for potatoes, I’m still ensuring that I’m consuming good, whole foods, which I enjoy eating and give me the results I want.

What to eat on Ab Day

There is absolutely nothing better than the euphoric post ab workout feeling where you feel like you can in fact officially take on the whole world. However, as many people discover, as SOON as you start eating that lovely, proud ache starts to slowly fade away (as does the immense satisfaction of having a flat stomach). So, to help prolong your now prominent abdominal muscles it’s important to eat incredibly clean throughout the day. If you’re thinking this means endless portions of rabbit food rations then THANK GOD, you’re wrong. Ab Day food is all about healthy fats, low carbs and a LOT of water.

When’s best to eat?

I always find that my abs improve a lot more when my workout coincides with fasted cardio. To ensure I don’t embarrassingly pass out on the treadmill I always have a rather heavy snack at 8/9pm the night before such as cereal, apple and peanut butter or a protein shake. I then complete my cardio of interval sprints around 9am and then move on to abs until 10/10:30am. I then have a light breakfast, healthy lunch, an afternoon snack and a meat orientated evening meal.

Breakfast 

When you finish you’re workout you’re going to be absolutely grade A ready to cry starving so you need something which is going to fill you up, but still not too heavy. My favourite post ab breakfast is an oaty smoothie bowl, which suddenly becomes even more appealing when it’s prepared the night before. So all you have to do when you come crawling through the door is lift it out of the fridge. Amazing.

How to make it:

  • Blend together an apple, banana, raspberries, blueberries, 1 tsp of greek yoghurt, 1 tsp of honey, 1 scoop of protein powder and 75ml of almond milk.
  • Pour over a thin layer of oats in an air tight container and leave to set in the fridge overnight.
  • When serving either enjoy it as it comes or add some fresh fruit on top.

 

Lunch

Think lean. This is the meal where you want to come away feeling as light as you did before eating, whilst still addressing those hunger pains. You want to get your healthy fats in, as well as keeping it INSANELY low carb. The best way to incorporate all this is a simple salmon dish.

How to make it:

  • Grill a fresh salmon fillet, 6 mins on the skin side and 4 mins on the other side.
  • Fry some pumpkin seeds until they turn brown and start popping.
  • Mash together an avocado, sliced red onion, lettuce, lime and coriander.
  • Place mix into a bowl, add the pumpkin seeds, the salmon and slice some feta cheese on top.

*adaption from one of The Body Coaches Lean in 15 meals

 

Snack

My favourite snack during ab day is a simple, light protein pancake with fresh fruit. It’s not too filling and it will help repair and rebuild your muscles from your workout.

How to make it:

  • 2 scoops of protein pancake mix –  I use MyProtein chocolate flavour (best tasting and lowest sugar count) mixed with 3 tsp of milk in a bowl.
  • Place one scoop of coconut oil in a frying pan and push it round evenly
  • Pour the mixture into the frying pan, leave for 1 minute and then flip
  • Add raspberries and blueberries and then finish of with Zero Sugar Syrup (again, MyProtein)

 

Tea 

It’s highly likely that you’re going to be training legs, bum or arms the following day so it’s vital you provide enough calories to ensure you smash the workout. So, whilst still keeping it clean, try and aim for something meat based for your evening meal. One of my favourites is a simple chicken, rice and sweet chilli dish.

How to make it:

  • Boil a packet of golden vegetable rice for 5 minutes
  • Slice a good sized portion of cooked chicken onto a plate
  • Either use a sweet chilli marinade on the chicken or simply drizzle over a sauce
  • Mix the three ingredients together