protein bar recipe

Though I have protein snacks pretty much on-tap at work (okay, in a vending machine) I still like to know exactly what’s in my food, so I really enjoy creating meals and snacks from scratch. These protein energy bars have ¬†are easy to make, are no-bake, low-sugar, and you can chop them into however many portions suit your macros!

I was first given this recipe by the lovely Laura, though I’ve modified it to suit my dietary requirements. It’s perfect for pre-workout or as a snack throughout the day, and it feels like a treat although it’s highly nutritious. Read on for the super simple recipe.

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hair skin nails supplements

High maintenance is not a phrase I’d use to describe my beauty regime. My nails are bare, I wear as little make-up as possible – though eyebrows are a non-negotiable – and I let my hair air-dry. The last beauty technique is a risky one, as you never know how it’s going to turn out, especially after going to bed with a soggy head!

This isn’t because I think I’m naturally stunningly beautiful; it’s just because I’m lazy. If I’m not at work or in the gym I want to be doing pretty much nothing other than eating or laying still on the sofa, so my beauty regime maximises the time spent doing this.

I still want to look healthy, though I’m aware the natural look takes a lot of effort to look just that – natural. However, since I started working in sports nutrition and I’ve tried out more goodies, I’ve found some supplements provide surprising benefits other than sports performance.

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meal prep

Working in town with loads of healthy food choices (and not-so-healthy for those kind of days) meant I never really had much of a need for meal prep. Sure, sometimes when money was a little tight I’d cook a few days’ worth of meals and take them to work, but I never really enjoyed eating re-heated chicken and rice when I knew Barburrito was just around the corner.

Now I’m leaving for work at 7am and getting home after CrossFit at 9pm, and the thought of chopping vegetables makes me want to weep when all I really want to do is shower and hop into bed. I’ve been preparing meals in advance for dinner, and I think I’ve just about cracked what works for me.

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get your greens in

Everybody knows they should be eating more vegetables, in particular leafy greens, but it can be difficult to stomach green stuff on its own. It’s worth it, though; as well as being full of iron, they also have high levels of vitamin K to prevent age-related conditions developing, can reduce cholesterol, and have more protein per gram than meat. The more bitter a green veg is, the more calcium it contains, meaning it’s perfect for keeping bones strong. The jury’s out on whether greens help to prevent cancer, but as some studies indicate yes it’s in our best interests to aim for a couple of portions a day.

Lots of green food is classed as a superfood, too – chlorella, spirulina and wheatgrass are words you’ll oft-hear in health circles, and for good reason. They contain the most concentrated levels of nutrients, vitamins and minerals, as well as having their own unique benefits (did you know that studies have shown that spirulina can help control blood sugar levels? Now you do!). It can be difficult – and expensive – to get enough leafy greens and green superfoods into our diets, so I thought I’d share my strategy for getting as much green is as possible.

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You’d have to have been living under a rock to not have heard of Natural Balance Foods. Along with the wellness revolution, over the past couple of years Trek and Nakd bars have boomed in popularity with those seeking a sweet yet healthy snack – in fact, when I met the guys behind Natural Balance at Be:Fit (How good is his t-shirt? They should sell them!) I was told that for years they got away with putting Nakd bars in their kids’ lunchboxes, duping them into thinking it was chocolate!

To be honest, with goodies this tasty there’s really no need for sugary snacks. My favourites have to be Trek bars, so I was lucky that Natural Balance kindly sent me a box of mixed protein flapjacks* so I could try the full range. They were originally made as a snack for those out trekking to stick into their pockets, so they’re well-balanced with oats as a slow-released carbohydrate and 9-10g of protein each. This combination is very filling: when I work 11:30-8:30 I’ll typically have a bar just before my shift with a coffee and this keeps me going until my lunch at 3pm. The bars are naturally sweetened with dates and some have a dark chocolate coating, making them perfect for an evening snack also, quietening those late-night munchies.

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As well as training my legs, heart and mindset for the upcoming Manchester marathon, I’ve also been training my muscles to hold more energy and figuring out what’s best for me to eat whilst on long runs. My marathon is now four days away (ARGH! But also.. OOOH!) so it’s now time to make a decision on what nutrition to take with me to get me through those 26.2 miles.

This post is called Fuelling My Marathon for a reason – nutrition for your long runs is a very personal thing and something I believe should be tried and tested whilst you’re training. I started out trying out gels and energy blocks, but I hated them; I hated the texture and the funny after taste, besides I was finding myself getting really hungry which those sugary things didn’t help at all with. Then I went with healthier options: bananas, cereal bars, homemade energy balls. They didn’t give me enough of an energy boost and they were really difficult to eat with the dry mouth that long runs give you.

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If I had to choose only one food to eat for the rest of my life with no consequences it would have to be pizza. Gooey mozzarella and tangy cheese on a crispy base every single day, with maybe added spinach and ricotta one day, chicken another, and a whole host of veggies the next day. Belissimo!

Realistically eating an entire Domino’s a day isn’t the best for you, but break pizza down into its component parts and you realise you can make a balanced meal out of it. Tomatoes and whatever vegetables your heart desires; protein from the meat, fish, or egg, should you choose a Fiorentina; fats to keep you full from the mozzarella; carbs to energise from the base. It’s just the imbalance of these nutrients that makes you unhealthy – too much cheese and the base can make you sluggish.

I was challenged by Exante Diet to create a different, healthy pizza a day using their pizza mix*. The mix is actually made for people on meal replacement diets to add into their regime but for someone training most days the base is pretty balanced, with 17g protein, 20g carbs and 5g of fat. I managed five days of different pizzas but – shockingly, considering my opening statement – I actually got sick of pizzas day after day. I was safe in the knowledge that the pizza bases were full of added vitamins and minerals, although this did make the ingredient list rather lengthy. I think it’s something you get used to when you use protein products like bars or whey, so I just make sure the rest of my diet has as few ingredients as possible – as in, just the ones I put in from scratch!

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My first one was a bit of a disaster. Great on paper – spinach, avocado, egg – but stupidly I thought I could substitute tinfoil for the greaseproof paper in the instructions (you can’t, I had to mostly pick the base off the foil) and I also got distracted and left it in the oven for too long. It obviously still got eaten but a lesson was learned.

Next was the most pizza-like of the lot, and the only one I used the included tomato sauce with; it tasted too chemically for me so I left it afterwards and did my own thing. This one was mozzarella, spinach and Quorn sausages (top image), and was much enjoyed, although I didn’t get the base’s crispness quite right so ate with a knife and fork.

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My greatest idea, if I do say so myself, was turning two bases into a large rectangle, and using them to make flatbread to take to uni. With the base being higher in protein than normal bread I didn’t have to worry about cramming with protein, so enjoyed filling them up with healthy fats like avocado and homemade hummus.

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Finally, I had tomato paste, mozzarella and turkey bacon, and I managed to get the base suitably crispy, albeit I still ate with a knife and fork. Turkey bacon is always a winner for me so I definitely ended on a high note.

Now it’s a few days after my daily pizza experiment I’m craving another, so a balanced pizza for lunch it is. There’s no way I’d recommend a meal replacement diet, but these mini pizza bases with a mountain of veggies on top are perfect for days where you fancy a quick, nutritious lunch or even a snack on the go. Do remember, though, that all food should be part of a rich, balanced diet with additional exercise, so a full-fat pizza here and there won’t hurt in the slightest – and may even get your metabolism burning faster, timed right!

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