How To Get Enough Protein On A Vegetarian Diet

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Next week is National Vegetarian Week! Why, you ask, would that interest a bona fide meat-eater such as myself? It may surprise you to hear that it was actually only in January that I moved over to the dark side. I found that the harder I trained, the hungrier I became – and only the densest of protein-rich foods would fill me up. Hence the meat cravings, and the abandonment of the vegetarian lifestyle I’d led for ten years.

That’s why the current trend of vegetarianism for health interests me. Mitra Wicks wrote about part-time vegetarianism in this month’s Om Yoga Magazine: the self-professed “fine meat” lover tries out a plant-based diet for a month to reap the healthy benefits. Whilst it’s true that studies show a meat-rich diet can be detrimental to your health, Anita Bean also states in Sports Nutrition that athletes need between 1.2 and 1.7 grams per kilogram bodyweight – and I mean athletes as in individuals who train hard, not just the Jess Ennises and Mo Farrahs of this world – compared to a sedentary person who only needs 0.75 grams per kilogram.

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So how do we strike a balance? You’d be amazed to learn just how many foods protein is present in, though it’s difficult to get sources as dense as meat. To poke a litle fun at switch to being a meat-eater, I set myself a challenge to try get as much protein in one evening meal as I possibly could – without resorting to meat, dairy, or even fake meat!

Kidney beans: 8g per half can (120g). Beans are a perfect source of protein for vegetarians – they’re full of fibre, stabilise blood sugar and are inexpensive.

Chickpea & spinach soup: 4.4g per half can. Chickpeas are also legumes, the same as beans, and share many of the same benefits. This can is one of my “emergency” meals but I thought it would be good to make it the base! Plus this ad-lib addition is in keeping with the thrown-together quality of this dish.. Ahem.

Mushrooms: 2.2g per cup. I used to think that mushrooms were mega protein dense, due to their presence in most veggie meals, but I actually think this is due to their meaty texture rather than macro content. Still, not bad for a vegetable – calorie-for-calorie, broccoli has 1.2g.

Quinoa: 8g per cooked cup. A trendy superfood, and with good reason – it contains all nine amino acids and has twice the protein of rice.

Green pepper: 0.5g per half pepper. For taste, texture and colour!

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Total protein per portion: 23.1g. Perhaps not in the lofty heights of 50g for a steak but not bad for a plate full of vegetables.

This dish did fill me up and is something I would happily add into my weekly menu, though perhaps not suitable for the day after legs day: my muscles need more fuel after lifting heavy. I’d have been interested to hear if Wicks felt any better after her meat-free month, especially seeing as I felt stronger after ceasing vegetarianism! It just proves that your diet is a very personal thing, and whilst you should take into account what the experts say, how you feel is the best indicator of a healthy lifestyle.

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That Time I Bumped Into Sam Briggs… And Completely Fangirled

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Alright, so this is a bit of a sad, fangirly post, but I’m excited so you are getting it anyway:

Walking home from the Om Show on Sunday I bumped right into Sam Briggs along the canal near my flat. Sam Briggs: also known as the fittest woman on the planet, who finished top of the leaderboard of this year’s CrossFit Open, and will most likely batter the competition at the Games this year.

I was definitely a bit of a weird crazy person but she was very cool with it. Let’s just hope that somehow her 125kg max squat weight magically rubbed off on me in passing…

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No Fear | Handstands & Green Juice at the Om Yoga Show 2014

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Traditionally in yoga, 108 is the sacred number. 108 sun salutations, 108 prayer beads, 108 sacred sites. But this weekend has been all about the number two for me – a couple, or double; a pair. Two days of the Om Yoga Show, two hours’ practice each day. Two green juices both days to fuel my asanas; two hands firmly planted into the earth with two feet reaching up high into the sky.

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No, I didn’t mix those last two up. One of the highlights of my weekend was a handstand workshop. I was nervous beforehand, and the instructors did say that fear is what holds most of us back from being able to do a handstand. They’re not wrong there. I learned lots of new tips to improve my inversions, and even got up into a handstand in the middle of the floor. OK, so I had a spotter who made me feel super safe – and they definitely let go at one point so I was freestanding!

I also got the chance to try out three different types of yoga – Iyengar, boxing and Jivamukti. I have always just “done” yoga without a thought of which school I was, adding in and taking away bits as I felt necessary, though the Jivamukti class really resonated with me. The teacher was bursting with energy (Andrea Everingham of One Yoga Studio in Chorlton, if you’re local!), the music loud, and the flow fast. We got to do stuff I love like balances, back bends, and inversions, and I really felt like I opened new doors in my practise – I did crabs, crows, and I nearly did a one-legged arm balance before faceplanting. I didn’t mind though! I firmly believe that what doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you and it was great to take my yoga practise outside of the box.

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The Freeths of the Freestyle Yoga Project ran the handstand workshop I went to on the Saturday, and Mark was telling us about the progress he’s making with one-armed handstand. He can showed us how he can do it against the wall, and is working on freestanding. I was thinking about this  whilst watching the couple’s demonstration later that day – if these guys are still working on poses and appreciating their progress, then I shouldn’t be too hard on myself when I don’t get crow or headstand press straight away. Everyone is at their own stage of practise and progress can’t be forced.

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There were some awesome stands to nosy about, too, but sadly the intention I set was to not buy any more crazy patterned leggings. I have to save pennies! Sad though as I could have easily spent on peacock Onzies or galaxy Teekis. I did allow myself to buy some foodie bits though – I’ve newly discovered 9 Bars (I know, where have I been?), chocolate Koko milk and Chi coconut water lattes, which are made from 100% coconut water.

I’m so inspired and excited now to get back onto my mat to put the knowledge and courage I’ve gained this weekend to good use – I feel I’ve been able to let go of some fear with the help of experienced instructors, spotters and helpers. My only problem with the show? That it’s not every weekend! Seriously, it was such an incredible experience, I will certainly be there again next year.

Namaste, Om Yoga Show!

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OP-ED: On Yer ‘Ead, Lass

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To the dismay of many a boyfriend (alright.. two. I haven’t had THAT many boyfriends) I have always held a bit of a disdain for football. It’s not the game itself I dislike, it’s everything that surrounds it: the players’ ridiculous salaries, the controversies, and the unruly fans. My ears pricked up a few weeks ago though when I heard England women’s team beat Montenegro 9-0 – mainly because I didn’t even know we HAD a national women’s team!

For once, I paid keen attention when my boyfriend watched MOTD that night. Surely with such an achievement there would be at least a small mention – but no. Backofbeyond United’s 1-1 draw with Arsend Rovers was clearly much more important.

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As a sport we are actually quite good at, why does it get such little exposure? It would be too easy to say that men are not interested, as I know this isn’t true. I paid the grand sum of £3 to watch Manchester City Women’s play Chelsea in the FAWSL quarter final and I’d guesstimate men represented 60% of attendees. Though matchgoers’ numbers were low passions were high as a men’s game, with the same comments about the referee being bellowed as you’d expect in the Premier League.

Personally, I think it comes down to sponsorship. In 2011 women’s football received only 0.5% of all sports sponsorship, with men’s at 61.1%. Interestingly the same report claims there was interest shown by the general public in women’s sports, and whether these figures have changed since the Olympic sports boom is unknown; but it is clear that investment is needed in women’s football to help it reach a wider audience. Without the huge investment from sponsors – like AON, Standard Chartered and Etihad – men’s football and the players’ salaries would not be at the heady heights they are today: it seems to be a “chicken or egg” situation.

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In 1921 the FA claimed that “football is quite unsuitable for females” and banned the game until 1971 – taking this into consideration I’d say it’s come on in leaps and bounds the past few years! After all, there must be others like me who aren’t keen on the egos and earnings in the men’s game, but are interested in the skill, speed and teamwork required. At the measly price of three quid maybe a selfish part of me doesn’t want the whole country to know, however this can’t be sustainable for the long-term. Organisations like the WSFF are coming to prominence and teams like Manchester City are taking their women’s teams seriously; perhaps in the next few years sponsors will follow suit and women will have their rightful place in football.

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A Beginners’ Guide To Heaton Parkrun, Manchester

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Working in retail it’s as rare as hens’ teeth to get a Saturday off work, so I took advantage of a rare opportunity this past weekend to go to my first Parkrun.

I wasn’t sure what to expect – I have been to non-Parkrun park runs before which were definitely amateur affairs, but the run at Heaton Park was run with utmost precision by a large team of volunteers. It was a cracking morning too, which brought out a huge field of 450 runners!

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You register on the Parkrun website to begin with, then print a barcode to take with you. At the end of the 5K race you run through the finish line into a funnel where a volunteer with a stopwatch records your time. You are given another barcode then both barcodes are scanned together, then linked to your stopwatch time. An hour or two later your time is sent to you via email or text (this past Saturday you got chocolate too, but that was a special Easter treat).

I was thrilled to find my time was 24:24, putting me the 16th female back home – and the 1st woman in aged 25-29! The organisation of the event ran like clockwork and I couldn’t believe it was all from a team of volunteers. I will be back – and I will be working hard to beat my time.

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