My Top Tips For Being Healthier And Staying Motivated This January

 Whether your goal for 2018 is to lose weight, build muscle or just generally feel healthier, the key place to start is in the kitchen.

Healthy eating is a big thing this January in particular, with the media full of hints and tips, new diets and new food crazes.  For me it's all about making small changes to your daily routine that aren't drastic or painfully dull, to help you achieve your goals.  I've been intrigued by Veganuary and all the vegan recipes knocking about recently so I thought what better time of year to give things a go and make a change to my eating approach.

Now as many of you may know, I like to workout and be as active as possible and so protein is an integral element to any meal of mine.  My major concern with being a vegan is where to get protein from with many typical sources coming from animals and after some research it's clear you do need to think a little outside the box when it comes to new sources and ways of incorporating these into typical dishes.

Ultimately I'm hoping to try new vegetables, new recipes and ultimately be more creative in the kitchen, whilst enjoying Weekend's off but maintaining healthy eating and my discipline.

Here are a few quick and easy ways of incorporating more plants into your diet and sticking to being a vegan, even if it's just for a couple of days a week and to try something new.

Post Workout Power Shake

Breakfast is without doubt the most important meal of the day.  Typically I like to have mine after my morning workout and my 'go-to' would usually consist of eggs, smoked salmon and spinach.  Clearly if I'm to make it as a vegan Monday through to Friday, both eggs and salmon are off the menu!

After a bit of research I decided the best and most straightforward way to get the protein I require is with a 'power smoothie', using pea-protein, chia seeds that are rich in natural protein and omegas and a number of frozen superfoods from Iceland.  The Pack'D smoothie kit comes with all the frozen fruit you need for the much needed vitamins and flavour alongside a handy pouch of wheatgrass and spirulina for that added health boost.

The almond milk adds the liquid and another boost of natural protein and omegas, leaving you with a powerful plant powered protein fuelled smoothie!

Top Tip - The Pack'D pouches come in two mixes, one more berry focused and one more greens focused, so mix things up and keep it interesting.
The beauty of this smoothie is you can make it the day/night before and if you're in a rush blend it up and take it with you to work or to the gym for a post-workout boost.  That 30 minutes after a tough session is your window of opportunity to fuel the body back up and feed your muscles, so make sure you maximise this time frame.

Speedy Lunch 

On an average day working from the home office, lunch can become a bit of a challenge and often gets overlooked.  With so many distractions around, the last thing I want to do is spend hours in the kitchen and so it's all about keeping it simple and healthy.

The Zesty Bean Quinoa bags from Iceland are a game changer, quick and easy and they taste fantastic.  

The key here is the freshness, with the ingredients frozen at source, things are actually fresher than the non-frozen variety and with the added bonus of lasting longer in terms of sell by date, so no more throwing veg gone bad away!  

They are also exceptionally good value at just £1.69 - a much more affordable alternative to the crazily priced salad bars in town.
This is a lunch that's ideal for the guy or girl on the move, packed full of protein, vitamins and nutrients and can be eaten warm or cold.  If you work in an office and have access to a freezer you are onto a winner here but you can of course cook this up every morning and stick it in your Tupperware ready for lunchtime - dead simple.
For some added nutrients why not cook up a Multi Greens Rice Bag and mix it in - I found this was a great way of changing it up and keeping it interesting.  

Top Tip - An added squeeze of fresh lemon or drizzle of olive oil takes this dish to the next level.

Muscle Building Vegan Chilli

Going vegan has it's challenges and one of the biggest for me is finding vegan versions of my favourite dishes.  Chilli and Bolognese are both firm favourites in our house and I wanted to try and recreate these, animal product free and a quick visit to Iceland online gave me the inspiration I needed.

I came up with this recipe and it's packed full of protein with kidney beans, chickpeas and white beans providing numerous vitamins and minerals.  The chopped tomatoes and garlic add some much needed flavour along with the crucial ingredient, onion.

Now onion and I have a fractured relationship, I find the whole process of peeling and chopping them rather stressful and I'm particularly susceptible to the dreaded 'watering eyes'.  This is where Iceland come to the rescue with their very handily pre-chopped onion.  Just as healthy as the usual stuff, they take the stress out of the process and it becomes dead easy.  There's also significantly less mess and waste.

Mix in some optional frozen mushrooms for some added flavour and serve with greens.  The frozen broccoli, crisp and fresh as ever, was another highlight and solution to forever throwing away broccoli that's gone bad.

This bad boy is sure to keep you satisfied during the colder months and is a great option for lunch or dinner.

Top Tip - For an extra bit of heat why not stick some chilli flakes or fresh chillis in and embrace the warmth!
Serve with brown rice or roasted sweet potato for some much needed carbohydrate to fuel the body for the next workout.

This is the ideal meal for two and can of course be prepared on a Sunday and frozen for the week ahead!

Top Tip - Batch cook a load on Sunday afternoon and freeze in sandwich bags for portion management and to save on time.
Here are a few tips to keep you guys motivated to stay healthy this January and stick to your goals:

1. Always Plan Ahead:

This may sound obvious but planning ahead is crucial to successfully navigating healthy January! I like to plan our meals on Sunday afternoon and pop by the shops either Sunday or Monday to grab everything for the week ahead.  Pre-plan your workouts to ensure you spread things out and don't neglect and specific exercises.

2. Mix Things Up:

Whether that's in the gym or with your meals at home, be sure to keep changing it up to keep things interesting.  I'll be sharing more with regards to different circuits on my Blog and YouTube over the cming weeks, but it's crucial things don't become too 'samey' if you are to keep motivated throughout the month and into the remainder of 2018!

3. Get A Partner Involved:

Things will become much more enjoyable if you have a sidekick for this healthy January.  Get a partner or flatmate involved and share cooking responsibility or meal planning.

4. Invest In New Gear:

Treat yourself to new cookwear, recipe books or a new gym outfit to help maintain motivation.  If you look good and the food your eating looks good, you'll feel that much better for it.

5. Share Your Progress:

Sharing your progress will help keep you extra motivated and encouragement from others to keep going will make all the difference.  Whether it's snaps of your healthy food creations or snaps from the gym after your workouts, don't underestimate the importance of positive feedback.
Why not embrace your inner vegan and give it a try Monday through to Friday?! Whatever you do, set realistic goals and stick to them, you'll feel that much better come February knowing what you have achieved.

Will you be giving Veganuary a go this month? What are your goals for 2018?


*This post was written in collaboration with Iceland Foods, however all thoughts and opinions expressed are very much my own.*

10 Ways To Get More Out Of Your Workout This January

So January is here and those new years resolutions are finally starting to become a reality! For many of us getting back into the healthy swing of things is top of that list and is without doubt an important starting point after the festive indulgence.

Those first few steps onto the gym floor can be some of the hardest but the benefits of regular exercise speak for themselves and if you make one change for 2018 let it be a healthy regime to keep your body and mind active throughout the year.

Here are a few tips for getting more out of your workout and maximising the time you spend in the gym:

1.  Get Up And Get Cracking:

No one likes getting out the house when it's still dark and rather chilly, but there's no better time to hit the gym than in the early hours of the day.  Most gyms tend to be fairly quiet pre-8am and working out in the mornings kick starts your metabolism and essentially awakens the body for the day ahead.  It's been scientifically proven that you will burn more calories throughout the day by working up a sweat first thing.

*Top Tip - The morning is without doubt the optimum time to get your sweat on, so set the alarm for 6am and focus on getting your workout out the way and completed before work so you can focus on the remaining tasks for the day.

2. Reach For The Black Stuff:

It's not rocket science, drinking coffee before a workout will leave you feeling more energised and add a cheeky spring to your step when leaving the house.  In addition to the added 'zing', consuming caffeine in the morning has been proven to speed up your metabolism, helping you burn more calories throughout the day!

I like to take my double 'lungo' to go and sip away on my walk to the gym, it's become a bit of a morning ritual and without doubt one I couldn't do without.

*Top Tip - Steer clear of the plethora of 'pre-workout' supplements on the market.  I've tried many and they may give you an initial buzz but the number of additives, sweeteners and ingredients in general is rather scary.  Best to stick to the black stuff, it's healthy and safer.

3. Upgrade With HIIT:

When it comes to the session itself it can be rather overwhelming - the internet is full of contradictions, 'weights over cardio' and other misleading and confusing claims.  Ultimately it's important to pick a workout that suits you and suits your aims!

For me, HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training is the ultimate addition to any weekly gym routine and the perfect way to train for those of us that are time poor and only have 30-45 minutes a day set aside to workout. It's not complex, essentially intervals of serious intensity followed by a rest period and then repeated.

My favourite approach is interval sprints on the treadmill.  Set aside 20 minutes and look to achieve 8-10 x30 second sprints (as fast as you can go) with a 60 second rest in between each.  For added toughness increase the incline on the machine with each sprint by 0.5.  They may sound brutal but you'll be amazed at how quickly time goes and nothing beats that euphoric feeling when the 20 minutes is up!

*Top Tip - Circuits are another great way of getting your daily HIIT, limit the rest periods and focus on getting as much done in your timeframe as possible - There's a new YouTube video of an epic circuit to come this Weekend so make sure you're subscribed to my channel ;-)

4. Workout With A Partner:

Sometimes things can get a little much in the gym and when those sessions become too tough to handle give a mate a call and get them involved.  Working out with a friend alongside will give you added motivation and a much needed breather in between exercises or circuits ;-)

Additionally it will encourage you to stick to your plan and get down to the gym, no one likes letting a friend down!

*Top Tip - Workout with a loved one - I like to workout with Josie once or twice a week and we often do circuits together, alternating exercises as we go and it can make that 45 minute session that much easier and more enjoyable.

5. Rotate Your Playlists:

Don't underestimate the importance of music when working out.  I like to build a few playlists every month and rotate them throughout the week to keep things interesting and different.

If you are lacking 'songspiration' head over to Spotify and pick a few random workout playlists, there are some great ones around.

*Top Tip - Tailor your playlists to suit the type of workout and exercises for that session.  I like a bit of Eminem or Linkin Park for heavy lifting and R&B for the higher intensity stuff.

6. Don't Be Afraid To Turn To The Experts:

Back in December 2016 I decided to get the help of a PT over at Virgin Active and looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made.  I have always been fairly confident in the gym and it can be hard asking for 'help' but there's no doubt the added expertise has taken my sessions to another level.

If you ever find your sessions becoming a little mundane, then there is no better way to mix things up and getting a second opinion from an expert can be game changing.  It's amazing how many of us are working out incorrectly and ultimately not as efficient as we think (myself included) and so a second set of eyes can make a big difference in form and technique alongside fresh ideas and added motivation!

*Top Tip -Always Take Note -it's key to make notes before and after the sessions to ensure you are able to replicate them when your PT isn't by your side.

7. Upgrade Your Gym Gear:

If you look good, you will feel good.  Gym gear is an important part of any workout and the positive impact of a fresh set of kicks should not be underestimated! If you are getting down to the gym 4-5 times a week make sure you've got a few sets of everything to mix things up and stay looking sharp whilst working up a sweat.

My favourite brands at the moment are Lululemon and Nike for gym wear and Adidas for kicks.  I'm a little obsessed with the UltraBoost Laceless and they are the perfect all rounder for circuits, HIIT and weights.  They also look great with jeans ;-)

*Tip - Check out The Active Man, a site dedicated to mens fitness gear and there is a sale on at the mo!

8. Take Progress Shots:

A very straightforward point but often dismissed.  I started taking progress shots a few months back and it's a fantastic way of maintaining motivation and staying on track.  Take a weekly shot to track your progress and if you ever feel the motivation lagging refer to your last few photos and the certain progress.  It's all about progression.

*Top Tip - Take notes in your phone with your PBs and challenge yourself to improve on these week by week.

9. Empty The Tank:

Time is a precious commodity and when hitting the gym it's crucial you maximise your time and get the most out of any workout.  For that last 5-10 minutes of any session up the intensity - whether thats running faster or upping the repetitions, push yourself to that next level and make sure you leave the gym feeling knackered and accomplished :-)

*Top Tip - Finish your workout with a 5 minute challenge to really leave everything out there.  This could be a 5 minute sprint test (x5 30 second sprints with 30 seconds rest) or a mini-circuit, that last push will make all the difference.  Then remember to stretch!

10. Smash That Protein:

The UK (and World) has become protein obsessed over the past few years and it's popping up in everything from pasta to Snickers bars (they can't be good for you...!).  Clearly it's all about balance and eating a varied diet without any crazy rules.

That said, after a tough session your body and muscles will be screaming out for protein to help rebuild and repair, so your first meal of the day (or meal following your workout) should reflect this.  Up your protein with eggs, smoked salmon and spinach to feed the body and maximise all that work you've just put in.  Remember, breakfast really IS the most important meal of the day.

*Top Tip - Avoid protein shakes and grab a tin of tuna or packet of smoked salmon for the office! Failing that, Pret do smoked salmon and boiled eggs in a pot ;-)
Hopefully you guys find the above tips useful, over the past year I've really mixed it up in the gym and hit that 'wall' numerous times where things become too much and motivation takes a hit.  It's at times like this you need to change things up, whether that's your workout set up, exercises or your meals, keep changing things and don't become too set in your ways.

Would love to hear of any other tips out there - what works for you guys?

© Man About Town

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