Purition Protein Shakes

Over the last year or so I’ve been shifting my focus from running to weight training and have therefore become much more concerned about the protein content of my foods. Ideally I would aim to have a portion of protein with every meal or snack and that’s where the convenience of a protein shake comes in handy.

There is a massive choice of protein supplements on the market but some are packed with dross.

Here’s a snapshot of the ingredient list from Myoplex Lite, a protein shake that I have actually used in past but obviously haven’t scrutinised the rather unnerving list of oddities that I’ve been consuming as a result.Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 17.10.23

Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 17.13.01In contrast, Purition protein shakes claim to offer “real food” shakes and their ingredient list contains only recognisable food products such as nuts and seeds.

One of the downsides of real food shakes is that they don’t mix terribly well, they don’t include fillers or milk powders and so shaking them up with water is not very successful. Instead you need to add to the milk of your choice and blend with a mechanical blender.

Here’s my pistachio purition shake blended with 250 ml of raw milk. The sediment begins to settle pretty quickly so you can either stir as you drink or deal with some grainy stuff at the end.

Strangely enough, the purition shakes taste like whizzed up nuts in milk, fairly bland and a bit grainy. Not unpleasant but not terribly exciting either.

They work fine on a “food is fuel” basis, packing 20 g of protein per sachet.

Purition shakes are recommended as either a breakfast or lunch replacement and cost about £2 per sachet before you factor in the cost of your milk of choice.

I am quite happy to have scrambled egg for breakfast which is the ultimate real food in my mind which only leaves lunch or a post workout snack as potential options.

My lunches are usually the least nutritious meal of the day but as I don’t have a blender at work I will have to experiment with pre-whizzed versions of Purition and make sure I give it a good shake before I drink. I’m sure it will be fine and will certainly be an improvement on a Pret sandwich.


Quest Protein Bars on the Settle to Carlisle Way

Settle to Carlisle WayI was recently sent a vast variety of Quest protein bars, enough to consider cancelling my grocery shop for the week. As their arrival coincided with our planned mega hike along the Settle to Carlisle Way, I chose instead to stash them into our rucksacks for emergency sustenance.

That proved to be a good move.

Quest bar on the Settle to Carlisle WayPubs up North seem to keep odd hours and you wouldn’t believe the times we staggered off a Pennine hillside desperately seeking the pub marked on our OS map, only to find it was either shut or we had just missed the food serving window.

Still, I can confirm that when all else fails, a Quest protein bar proves to be a good accompaniment to a pint of Theakstones.

Quest protein barThe Quest bars all have a similar texture; a chewy protein matrix with what appears to be chunks of real cookies running through. Looking at the ingredient list tells me that it hasn’t so much as sniffed a real cookie so I think that’s quite an impressive trick.

In terms of taste, I’d say things like “not too bad”, “reasonably pleasant” but then you can’t get overly effusive about a protein bar. People don’t buy protein bars because they think they taste better than chocolate bars, they buy them because they are avoiding carbs, trying to eat protein with every meal and need something more convenient than a chicken breast. It’s only when you stack protein bars of different brands against each other that you start to feel more positively about Quest bars.

I have tried some fairly horrendous protein bars in my time, so by comparison these Quest bars are pretty darn good. I still came back with handful though, so they weren’t quite good enough to dissuade me from carrying them one end of Yorkshire t’other.

Nosh Detox

Nosh Detox deliveryI’ve been sent a lot of free food this month, the latest being a 3 day supply of lovingly prepared detox grub from Nosh Detox.

I chap came round on Sunday evening and presented me with 3 boutique style bags of food; Ocado never manage to make their deliveries look so chic.

It was rather exciting to unpack the sealed pouches of food and see what I had in store for the next few days. There was a fair smorgasbord and I struggled to find space for in the fridge. Whenever I embark on a DIY detox I very quickly run out of ideas and settle for the same old meals day in and day out. With the Nosh Detox program, there was an impressive variety of meals supplied, with only a green bean and onion snack repeated across the 3 days.

Nosh Detox was set up by Geeta Sidhu-Robb who was inspired by her success in helping her son recover from eczema and asthma by means of natural supplementation and clean eating. Now Nosh Detox aim to use natural wholefoods to rebalance the body’s nutrient deficiencies and provide their meal plans to high performance individuals from athletes to the stereotypical hard working city person as well as people looking for health solutions due to bad eating habits and nutrient deficiencies.

Nosh Detox offer a range of detox options, including juice detoxes and a variety of wholefood options. I chose the whole food No Sugar No Yeast detox option for my 3 days.

Nosh Detox Day 1Day 1 started with a brown rice porridge which I had cold as I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to be eating everything cold and raw. Mid morning I had a green bean and onion snack and then moved quickly to the chick pea, aubergine and onion salad for lunch. The afternoon snack was an anti-inflammatory turmeric and cauliflower saute, followed by a chicken stirfry for tea. I couldn’t manage another cold meal at this point and opted to heat the stirfry over a dry frying pan.

There was plenty of food for one day!

A bit of a trend was noted across the 3 days for quite large portions of the same food. So with the chickpea salad it was a large bowl comprised almost entirely of chickpeas. While I’m never one to complain about a hefty portion I did find it a bit samey by the end of my meal.  Over the course of day though, I found there was plenty of variety across the 5 meals.

Mint CoolerThe food pouches themselves weren’t labelled but each bag contained a menu for the day so I knew what to select as I left for work. The lack of labelling led to a few shocks. The vibrant green cocktail for my morning snack in Day 2 was very definitely pea green but tasted nothing like peas. When I got home I checked the menu to discover that it was actually a cucumber and mint cooler, not a pea in sight.

The food Nosh Detox produce is seasonal with menus developed on the day of cooking so you are unlikely to find that your menus would match those that I received. The photos should give you an idea of how fresh and vibrant you can expect the dishes to be though.

This seasonal approach probably makes it quite difficult to provide detailed nutritional information but as I’m used to studying the ingredient list and macronutrient content of my foods I found this a bit uncomfortable . The recipes are however gluten free, dairy free, egg free and mostly nut free so there’s not much left to cause concern. All Nosh Detox customers are open to having a complementary health chat on the phone with a health coach or nutritionist which can be either booked at the end or the beginning of their program and this is a great opportunity to discuss any concerns.

The food was obviously made with care and designed to reduce inflammation and generally enhance your wellbeing but it’s very expensive. For one person, a weeks supply of whole food dishes will cost in the region of £400 which is pretty hard to swallow.

However, if you have that sort of money you’ll probably be working all hours and might appreciate having someone take the stress out of finding healthy foods for your every meal. Even if you will end up cooking for yourself in the long run, this is a great way to increase your repertoire and get ideas for healthy new foods. You are likely to feel great after the first week of detox too.

I myself discovered the delight of coconut chip snacks and the satisfaction of a well cooked spear of asparagus. Nosh Detox sauté their asparagus so it has a definite crunch while I have been steaming mine to within an inch of mush. Never again, my asparagus days start over.

Huel complete Food for Humans

I’ve always been a bit sniffy about meal replacement shakes but when I first heard about Huel in a recent Times article I felt more intrigued than judgemental. It seemed to be selling itself as an ethical, low allergenic alternative to real food and not as a quick fix diet shake. So when I was offered a week’s supply of Huel to try out, I obviously jumped at the chance.

Huel is vegan, dairy free, soy free, gluten-free food replacement product and claims to be nutritionally complete providing at least 100% of the UK Governments Reference Nutrient Intakes. Personally I’d rather not trust the Government with decisions about my health but at least they’ve opted to follow the UK model rather than the US Government’s view of a healthy diet.

If I were to claim affinity to any particular nutritional bandwagon it would have to be Weston A Price with its focus on traditional foodstuffs, well reared meat and fermented products so Huel doesn’t fit in so well with that – it’s hardly traditional to live off mail order powder and there isn’t even a sniff of an animal product, well reared or not. The ingredient list is pretty tame, there isn’t a single product that I could complain about with the bulk comprised oats, pea protein coconut, flaxseed and sunflower seed.

When I took delivery of my weeks supply of Huel, I planned to trial a 100% Huel day based on 1500 cals. Here’s my day’s supply weighed out and combined ready for use. By the time I had made it through the first 8 hours or so of my day and consumed my breakfast and lunch Huel, I was getting pretty desperate and I decided to change the experiment and adopt a more sustainable approach of 2 on and 1 off.

Quite a lot of people choose to substitute Huel for breakfast and lunch and then opt for their typical evening meal with the family. This seems eminently sensible to me. Breakfast is usually the most nutritionally lacking meal in most people’s diets. Unless I can bothered to cook up an egg meal I rarely get a satisfactory level of protein in the first meal of the day. Huel at least ensures that I get a good kick-start with a so-called balance of carbs, protein and fat. Lunch is a bit easier to control but if I haven’t bothered to make myself a pack up chicken salad I find myself spending a fortune on organic produce near work and I’m happy to swap a £7 salad for a 96p bottle of Huel (300 cals worth), safe in the knowledge that my nutritional needs are accounted for.

I admit, it is poor to design an experiment and then change the goalposts half way through implementation but if you want to read about someone who has jumped on the 100% bandwagon and has so far stuck at it for 3 unhappy days, check out Ed Wiseman who is in the midst of 7 day Huel experiment.

I’ve now been using Huel for 12 days and I’m really happy with it. I weigh out the powder in the morning and mix to about a 1:5 ratio of powder to water (you can amend to your desired consistency). I do find that Huel is quite resistant to mixing and it takes a fairly hefty blast with handheld blender. I haven’t tried the shaker approach but can only imagine that it would result in major lumps.

Huel is not particularly tasty but neither is it vile. I’d describe it as a strangely sweet, runny porridge. Its bland really, but I’ve always found that bland works pretty well for me, it seems to turn off all my high alert, food-neediness sensors.

On a normal, non Huel day, I typically have breakfast, arrive at work and start wondering if its ok to have my morning snack of cashew nuts, then an hour or so later I start clock watching til 12 noon when I think I can reasonably start on my lunch. With Huel, I start the day with a pint of the whizzed up concoction and although I do feel hungry in the morning, I know that the Huel is sitting there waiting for me and I can eat it (or drink it) whenever I like. I just don’t seem to “like” that much. On Huel days I regularly make it through til 2-ish before I finally crack the lunchtime supply open.

As someone who constantly struggles with my weight and any form of dietary restriction, I find this behaviour to be a revelation and one that I want to hang on to.

So 12 days in I feel good, healthy, lighter, slimmer and I’ve saved money on my grocery bill. That’s a bit of an obvious thing to say given that my first bag of Huel was a freebie but I did buy the second bag. A weeks supply of Huel (based on 2000 Huel calories per day) costs £45 and at the moment comes with a free t-shirt (I like mine), a shaker and a metal drinks bottle.

Hacking the Huel

They have a fairly active customer forum at Huel and there seems to be an acceptance of altering the mix or spicing it a bit. Here are my suggestions for hacking the Huel.

Changing the Flavour

I’ve already said that the bland flavour works for me so I don’t want to dabble with the flavouring and make this a moreish product, having said that I did try adding the dregs of my black Americano one morning and it was surprisingly good. Other users have tried an assortment of flavour enhancers including syrups, coffee powders and cinnamon.

Altering the MacroNutrient mix

I don’t buy into the Governments view of what constitutes a healthy diet and would prefer to have some more control based around my personal requirements. So while Huel is currently constructed around a 30 30 40 split (fat, protein, carbs), I would prefer to increase the protein and fat at the expense of the carbohydrate. When I’ve been weight training I add some additional grass fed whey powder and/or collagen to the mix. Obviously it adds to the calories but it also shifts the macronutrient mix in favour of protein.

Making it Live

I’m also a big fan of fermented products and kombucha, yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut are a regular addition to my diet. Since opting for two Huel meals a day I’ve reduced my opportunity to sneak in my home-made Bulgarian heritage yoghurt, and that’s a bit of a tragedy as I have to maintain the lactobacillus line. I’ve started to sneak a bit into my morning Huel to ‘live’en it up a bit which also has the benefit of taking the edge off the sweetness. As with all additions though, it affects the nutrient mix and the calorie content.

Final View

I don’t see why anybody without complex health needs or a psychological aversion to food, would choose to use Huel as a complete food replacement. It’s quite possible to do and might well be more nutritious than most people’s dietary alternatives, but food means so much more than just nutrition and I don’t ever want to lose the joy of sitting down to a good meal with friends and family.

I do think that there could be a longterm role for Huel in my life though. I’ve already ordered my next weeks supply and will continue to adopt a breakfast and lunch replacement for the forseeable future. I’m impressed with the level of food control I seem to have developed while using Huel and the result is that I’ve been losing weight but I also feel good, my energy levels are up and my mood is steady. If I were to try to restrict my consumption in a similar way using “normal” foods, I’d be going up the wall within a day.

Primal Kitchen Loveliness

I was sent 3 snack bars from The Primal Kitchen to try out last week. I’m afraid they were so lovely that I didn’t have chance to take artistic photos before I’d polished them off.


The Almond and Cashew bar is particularly delicious and I’ve already bulk ordered some additional bars for the snack cupboard.

They’ve been designed to make paleo snacks more accessible and include minimal ingredients, all real food. My favourite bar contains only dates, almonds, cashews and almond oil.

I have found them the perfect snack for taking on endurance events like the London2Brighton. They’re also handy in the office drawer but can be a little to tempting for my own good.

Just as a quick aside. It’s Day 11 of Juneathon and I’m still on track. I reluctantly dragged myself on to the treadmill this morning for a High Intensity Training session before work and was mighty glad I made the effort. There are few things more rewarding than a completed run.

A Welcome Fruitdrop

A box of fruit was delivered to my desk last week, courtesy of Fruitdrop, a London based company that deliver fruit and milk direct to the workplace.

Fruitdrop office fruit deliveryThe volume and quantity of fruit took me a little by surprise and despite being a big fruit fan I decided I was going to need assistance with the consumption.

I recycled one of the almost daily “cakes in the kitchen” emails and offered my free fruit to the office.

Accountants descended in an excitable flurry, and the bananas and pears and apples and grapes and plums were nabbed in a flash. Within 40 mins the box was down to 2 apples, after a few more minutes a peculiar trade has taken place and we were now down to a plum and badly crushed grape.

Free food has rarely been so popular. I regularly see crusty remains of chocolate cake and croissants that linger well into the next day. There was a genuine excitement about the fruitdrop and a few pleas for me to keep the freebies rolling.

Although I’m unlikely to be able to secure more free deliveries, I will certainly choose a Fruitdrop over the more common but less popular cake giveaway next time I have a work based celebration.

At £20 with delivery, it strikes me as a reasonable charge and would be great for a smaller organisation to provide for their staff. It’s unlikely to be adopted by the NHS but a few people in the office considered organising a regular whip around for more fruitdrops.


Upbeat Protein Drink Review

Its not unusual for me to review my diet and decide that there is an excessive proportion of carbohydrate in the fuel mix.

Then I’ll embark on a period of clean living where the bread, potatoes and pasta are rejected in favour of lean meats, eggs, fish and vegetables. If I want to stick a label on the new eating plan I might call it Paleo but the aim is to have a balanced plate of protein and veg for each meal.

I always find that breakfasts are the hardest meal to slot protein into. Of course there are eggs, with enough cooking options to add interest to every day of the week, but I rarely fancy cooking when I’ve just got up, I’m just too used to the ease of cereal or toast.

I’ve recently taken to whizzing up a protein shake first thing in the morning. It’s a great way to get a perfect balance of carbs and proteins and if you are lucky with your brand choice it can even taste pretty good. Since my days trying out the Body for Life program I’ve been a fan of Myoplex Diet. It comes in 200 calorie sachets and makes a pint of very tasty (chocolate or strawberry) shake. The texture doesn’t appeal to everyone though, I’ve tried to encourage the teenage vegetarian to take a sip and risk a dose of protein but it is greeted with grimaces as the consistency has a slight similarity to raw egg white.

Upbeat Protein DrinkI was happy to be sent a few samples of the latest health drink Upbeat to try out last week. These come ready mixed in small bottles and have about 150 cals for a 250ml bottle. They have two flavours, strawberry and mango. Mango is my favourite and tastes likes a fresh smoothie – you wouldn’t really know you were drinking protein and there is no texture issues.

Upbeat have achieved something quite impressive in making such a tasty shake in the convenience of a ready made chilled drink. My experience with assorted powders is that they don’t last well after you’ve mixed them, they tend to separate and turn lumpy so if you want to take a shake for later you’ll need to have access to a whisk or one of those shakers that marks you out as a bodybuilder, so Upbeat could corner the market in tasty, whey based, protein drinks.

I can see myself buying these Upbeat protein shakes as a convenience snack when I’m desperately in need of sustenance but want to avoid the lure of high carb treats.

Chia Charge Review

I first came across Chia Seeds when I read Born to Run – the gospel of the barefoot running movement.

It was here that the amazing endurance exploits of the Tarahumara Indians were introduced to the world.

In a nutshell the Tarahumara’s ability to run and run was down to two things – running in sandals and eating Chia seeds.

Ever one to seek a solution by way of my stomach, I scoured the Internet in search of the miracle seed. I imagined turning my allotment over to Chia seed production and living a life dedicated to tending crops and running extremely long distances. In the end I couldn’t find any so tried Plan B and ordered myself a pair of vibram fivefingers.

Nowadays it seems that everyone is recognising Chia Seed as the next superfood.

I was contacted last week by Tim Taylor who recently set up Running Food to bring sachets of Chia Seed into the hands of the runner. He sent me a couple of sachets and I chose to try one out on the Thames Meander Half Marathon.

It’s never a good plan to try new things on race day and true to form this experiment was not all I’d hoped for.

I fancied a bit of Chia Charge but I’m afraid I had to settle for a disappointing performance slump – not that I can put the blame entirely with the seeds.

Chia seeds swell up in water and develop a gel like coating. This can help with certain properties such as appetite suppression but also gives rise to an unpleasant chewiness. I find it a little disconcerting to have to chew my water during a run. It’s rather like trying to swallow cold, runny, sago, but then no one said endurance running was easy.

The Chia Charge seeds had been flavoured with a sugar free raspberry powder which ensures that the drink is relatively low calorie (89 cals per 500ml) and all the nutrients are coming from the seed. I’m not really a big fan of raspberry drinks and would have opted to flavour my seed mix with orange if I’d had the choice, but each to their own. As Tim says on his website

We are all different, sometimes a new drink will work for you, you only find out by trying.

If you are at all interested in the powers of Chia Seeds why not give them a go. I can heartily recommend Running Food even if I’m not 100% converted yet.

Nuun Electrolyte Tab Review

20120506-103147.jpgI was sent an array of pretty capsules the other day, each containing 12 flavoured Nuun tabs.

These are handy tabs that enable you to prepare your own electrolyte replacement sports drink by dropping the tab in your usual water bottle. They don’t include loads of sugars like most sport drinks so are designed to keep you safely hydrated rather than refuelled ad only pack 6 calories per tab.

That’s perfect for me.

I’ve said many times when I’ve reviewed sports drinks before, that I’m not interested high calorie juices that negate all the effort I’ve just put in to burn calories. I want to end my exercise session with a calorie deficit but I do need fluids or I shrivel up in a heap after 3k. For long distance runs, say beyond 10miles, I find I start to feel quite ill if I drink only water so the low calorie electrolyte replacement drinks are perfect for me.

If you’re aiming for performance rather than weightloss, you will need to consider your re-fuelling needs as well but that’s what gels and jelly babies are for.

I’ve tried 5 flavours now and apart from the disgusting bubble-gummy grape flavour, they are all pretty tasty. My favourites are strawberry lemonade and strangely the caffeine infused lemon tea which I thought sounded vile. They have a good flavour (not too strong or sweet) and despite containing artificial sweeteners, I couldn’t detect an after taste.

The Nuun tabs have a slight fizz and so after bobbing along for any length of time with a half full water bottle there can be a bit of a pressure build up. I found myself gently sprayed with lemon tea on yesterday’s run. The fizz makes for quite a refreshing drink though.

Good Points
Minimal calorie intake – 6 only
Good choice of flavours
Portable so you can top up during a run
Quenches your thirst
Good value – 50p per drink
Eco and cupboard friendly – reuse the same water bottle

Bad Points
Grape flavour – yuk
Pressure build up when running

Here’s a wiggle link to the sample pack I tested: nuun active hydration pack

Thanks to nuun for sending me the samples to review.

Zico Coconut Water Sports Drink Review

I arrived home today to find about a gallon of coconut water samples sitting on my doorstep.

For a brief moment I wondered why no one offers me any Stella samples to review but 5 mins into my latest exercise fad routine I was desperate for a refreshing and healthy sports drink.

I’ve started Insanity the 60 Day Extreme Challenge (Amazon link) which is a crazy, high intensity, max interval training phenomenon. I’ll talk more about that later but needless to say it’s a severe workout and I was mighty grateful for a few sport drink samples.

Zico Coconut Water is billed as the healthy alternative to typical sugar laden sports drinks. I buy into that ideal but was a bit disappointed that Zico was made from concentrate and unspecified “flavours”. It tastes pretty convincing though and takes me back to tropical beach holidays and freshly cracked green nuts.

The best thing about Zico is the calorie content, I get vitamins and minerals and a tastier alternative to water for just 15 cals per 100 ml. That’s about 60 cals for the bottle and I deserved 60 calories today!

If you’re not familiar with coconut water it’s an odd flavour, it seems ever so slightly dusty but still refreshing. I’m a big fan, it takes me back to my childhood and trips to the autumn fair. If I was lucky I won a coconut from the shy and got to smash it for the juice. I probably got an egg cup full every other year as they were either dried up old nuts or I smashed it into smithereens at the cracking stage. Its quite a treat to get a full bottle without all the angst. I miss the associated toffee apples and goldfish though.