Insomnia: The Activity Tracker Showdown

Fitbit sleep tracking

Many people will have gone to bed last night with a degree of melancholy angst. Like me they will have forlornly switched the alarm back on after the luxury of 10 back to back lie ins.

I fell asleep then woke, bolt upright at 2:30 am full of dread about my imminent return to work.

Two DotsI tossed. I turned. I got up and played Two Dots for 90 finger tapping minutes.

I contemplated cycling into work at 4am but thought better of it and dragged myself back upstairs where I promptly fell back to sleep.

Moments after, my 07:15 alarm went off and seemingly only seconds later the emergency 07:50 alarm blared.

Aargh. I need a new job. Should anyone have a spare job which would allow me to work from home and play with spreadsheets, I will take it.

Looking at the stats for my night I see there is a stark contrast between my two activity trackers of choice. On my left wrist was the Garmin 920XT on my right, a new Xmas treat, the Fitbit Charge HR.

Sleep according to Garmin

I think from my intro, I’ve made it clear that I did not have a great nights sleep. Why then would the Garmin declare this to be one of my best kips ever?

9 blissful hours asleep with only 18 waking minutes in the middle. What happened to the Two Dots interlude?

The Fitbit on the other hand appears to be a master at sleep tracking and insomnia detection.

It ascertained that I had completely given up on sleep as a concept and split my night completely in two, which is just as I remember it.

Fitbit sleep tracking
Insomnia according to Fitbit

Fitbit knows its sleep! Garmin is pants!

Janathon and the Weightlifting Cat

The Weightlifting Cat

Unbelievably it appears to be Janathan time again, it seems to come round quicker than Christmas.

My current fitness levels mean that I am a long way off being able to string together another running streak. Fortunately I stumbled upon a book that came just in time to give me a new challenge for January.

There is a popular squat a day challenge on Facebook that sees you aiming for about 3000 bodyweight squats by the 31st Jan. I will be ignoring this challenge in favour of one with a powerlifting slant.

The Weightlifting CatI’ve been doing the stronglifts routine for about year but me and my training partner – the cat, are characteristically haphazard with the frequency. It’s supposed to be a 3 day a week program but we’ve slipped to once or twice a week. That’s where the discipline of the squat a day program should kick my butt. By removing the optional nature of the routine I should progress more rapidly.

While its called Squat Every Day, I’ll actually be alternating some of the other big moves everyday as well, including the deadlift (almost illustrated below), shoulder press, bent over row and bench press.

More from the weightlifting cat.

A video posted by ? @warriorwoman (@warriorwoman) on

I’ve signed up for Cory Gregory’s specific program on to ensure some variety and will be aiming for a squat PB every week. At the moment I am only up to 65 kg for the back squat so it will be interesting to see where I get to by the end of Janathan. I will spare you from daily updates of me squatting on the blog, although I will be all over Instagram like a rash.

Running will of course be thrown in for the occasional warm up – it is Janathon after all.

DIY Portable Olympic Weightlifting Platform

portable olympic weightlifting platform

Olympic weightlifting platforms are typically 8′ x 8′ so pretty huge and phenomenally expensive for what amounts to a few bits of plywood and some rubber. In my mind that’s a clear invitation for a DIY project.

portable olympic weightlifting platformI am not blessed with a great deal of DIY proficiency but that doesn’t stop me from bodging and hammering with intent.

I don’t actually do a lot of Olympic Lifting at the moment as I focus more on the powerlifting moves of deadlift, squat and bench but ideally the deadlift requires a dropping platform as well.  As we’ve recently re-laid our patio for the sole purpose of providing me with a level area for my power rack, I am quite conscious of the need to protect the sandstone slabs and I have not been dropping any of my deadlifts! Maybe I would have hit my 100 kg target if I wasn’t so scared of dropping it…..? Or perhaps I just need some more protein shakes….? Or maybe just some more effort.

If we ever intend having a BBQ on the patio again, I can’t realistically build an 8′ x 8′ altar to the deadlift without also booking in some Relate sessions, but surely 8×8 is mightily excessive anyway. If you can throw a barbell that far away, you can’t have loaded enough plates on it?

I was inspired by this instructables video of a modular olympic weightlifting platform, that cuts the standard 8×8 into a mini 4×8 platform in 3 portable sections.

I scrimped on the middle section (for now) and constructed two landing platforms, each 2′ x 4′, for the express purpose of saving the patio.


So I bought 4 sheets of exterior grade plywood from eBay, two really thick sheets would do just as well but I was hoping to save money with a 12mm sheet, it didn’t look up to the job so I ordered two more 15mm sheets to finish the job. I glued and screwed these together and then topped with a layer of horse-box matting.

I was constructing this during Storm Frank for added challenge, which I would recommend if you can arrange it! It was a bit of a bodge job, rough around the edges, but looks as though it could be up to the job.

I am admittedly still a bit nervous about dropping weights on it but can confirm that I’m not lifting enough to crack my platform and patio yet. Maybe that should be my New Years Resolution.

Purition Protein Shakes

Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 17.10.23

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.


Beta Testing Julia Buckley’s Ignite

I’ve been trialling a new 4 week program from Julia Buckley called Ignite. She’s moved away from free weights and on to body weight exercises for this particular program and presents her material in video format on her online gym website.

Julia has been asking her beta testers to identify a four-week goal and then commit to 3 daily habits that will take us there.

Four weeks is not a long time so we had to be realistic. Mine was to feel more comfortable in a t-shirt I was given a for a Christmas past. I’d like to wear it this Christmas without feeling as trussed up as the proverbial turkey.

Here’s the before shot:

Birk Larsens – The Killing

One of the things I really like about the Ignite program are the effective and varied warmup and cool down sessions that Julia builds into the 30 minute sessions. This is always the element of workout that I skip when I train unguided, despite having seen clear evidence that my body performs so much better after I’ve practised the move for a few times or “greased the groove”.

Julia is a very effervescent or bubbly character and can maintain a constant chatter throughout the workout videos. This can be quite high risk with exercise videos and is thing that turned me off celebrity workouts of the 80’s. My memory of workout videos is that they tend to be ok on the first viewing but then the jokes and catch phrases very quickly become irritating.

With Julia’s Ignite program you are cycling 6 different routines so only repeat each on a weekly basis. That’s a lot of variety for one program and does mean they feel fairly fresh each week.

Julia’s relaxed style means you feel like you are exercising with a buddy rather than being instructed from the screen. She leaps up and down maintaining the chatter while I huff and puff beside her. Perfect really because there’s no way I could talk through it.

The exercises are variations in HIT body weight moves such as lunges, squats and burpees. They focus on power, strength and balance.

I’m only two weeks in but so far I’m really enjoying it. There’s a lot of variety and since I’ve dabbled with the Freeletics movement I’ve become quite familiar with body weight exercises and the dreaded burpee in particular. The best thing has got to be the duration. 30 mins is perfect and that includes the warm up and warm down.

I’m not pretending that I don’t still struggle to motivate myself to do it some days but it’s hard to convince yourself that you can’t squeeze in a 30 minute session. The other bonus in these particularly wintry days is that you feel warm for ages after completing the session.

Ignite turns me into a fiery furnace.

Stromer ST1 eBike Review

Stromer ST1The Stromer ST1 pedelec was a tricky purchase to make. I have a glut of bikes in the house and this new one was going to cost the same as a brand new Vespa scooter.

The view from the household was that I should quit being lazy and just get on my push-bike.

That refrain has been heard before but has very limited effect I’m afraid. The fact is, that although I love the ride into work; the speed, the ducking and diving, the excitement of reaching London and its bridges and parks – I just can’t be bothered with the ride home. After a hard day’s work, when it’s dark and usually wet, I just can’t face the upward climb towards an unattractive suburb of Croydon.

So I’ve been using pay as you go oyster far more than I’d like. I’m not prepared to buy a money-saving season ticket and tie myself in for a year of public transport drudgery.

That’s where the Stromer comes in. It’s got to be close to being the worlds best eBike. Super fast, long-range and I don’t feel like a nob riding it.

It’s a pedelec eBike which means it doesn’t have a throttle and only provides motor assistance if you are putting in some effort. You can actually put in as much effort as you can on a standard bike but you are rewarded more handsomely for it. The extra assistance cuts out at a pre-defined max (28 mph).

A lot of people assume that it is cheating and that I won’t be getting any exercise by choosing to use an eBike, but they are wrong. Well not about the cheating bit, I would have wasted a lot of money if it wasn’t cheating, but I certainly get a good dose of exercise from the commute. I’ve monitored my heart rate on the journey into work and back so I can compare the effort on an eBike with the effort of a standard road bike (Specialised Sirrus). I was quite surprised.

The chart shows my heart rate against distance, with the eBike in Orange and my standard road bike in blue.

Heart rate on a Stromer ST1 ride

On the way in to work my heart rate is actually higher on the eBike. What you can’t see from the chart is the time taken, its much faster on the eBike, so although I may be putting in more effort while I’m riding, I’m not doing it for as long. On the way home my effort levels are lower and I still get home 20 minutes quicker. That is exactly what I wanted – a fun ride in and a more relaxed trip home.

What is like to ride a pedelec eBike?

The ride is thrilling. Obviously push-bike riding can be thrilling if you ride fast enough but the joy of the Stromer is that it makes me feel fit and energetic everyday. That’s a great feeling.

When I first started, I tended not to lead the peloton too often. I didn’t like to draw too much attention and also didn’t feel quite so agile on this heavy beast of a bike. After a month of riding that’s changed though and I ride freely, regularly leading my own Gurney races.

Gurney racing at #sixdaylondon #gurney #velodrome

A video posted by ? @warriorwoman (@warriorwoman) on

The weight of the bike which is not insubstantial made it quite tricky to manoeuvre as a novice. You can’t flip the back wheel up while on the move for instance but that can also be an advantage as it offers stability and slow speed moves are made a little easier.

Stromer ST1 ReviewThe power transmission from the rear wheel motor is pretty smooth. It feels like you have a supportive hand on your back just pushing you gently forward.

There are 4 assist levels:

0 – which I presume means zero assist. I had thought I’d use this for the ride into work but really, why would you. The bike weighs a tonne and the unassisted ride feels like riding with the brakes on.

1 – is supposedly just enough assist to eradicate the slowing effect of the weight of the bike and the motor. It should set you on a level playing field with the other cyclists. It feels to be slightly more performance enhancing than it suggest in my experience.

2 – This is where I spend most of my time. I ride between 18 and 22 mph – not too fast for the Central London conditions. It’s a stop start commute and I appreciate the extra help to get back up to speed.

3 – top supported speed is higher than 2 but I don’t find the transmission to be as smooth, I can feel it powering up as I pedal hard and then it drops off again in waves. For the pace I like to travel at, level 3 just doesn’t feel comfortable.

4 – this is fast! Top supported speed 28 mph. For the stop start London commuting experience I find this too fast and hardly use it. There is one straight stretch on the way home that I like to power along though so I tend to flick to assist 4 and then back down to 2 when the roads get more gnarly again. If I had a less congested commute I would probably live at Level 4.

You also have 2 levels called Recup 1&2 which are also triggered by the application of the rear wheel brake. This applies electrical braking which also recharges your battery a bit and extends the distance range before your battery flattens.

What is the Distance Range of the Stromer ST1?

I’m afraid I haven’t tested this out fully and will need to come back and update this review.

The manufacturer claim a distance range of 40-80km for a 70kg rider. Now I’m a 100kg rider with luggage, half of my journey is at night which uses the integral light – another drain on the battery, so I’m unlikely to get 80km out of it.

My daily commute is 36 km and I arrive home with about 2 bars left on the battery indicator. What I have yet to do, in the name of blogging science, is to continue riding around and around my block until I run out of assistive steam. I want to make sure I’m close to home when the battery flattens as the unassisted ride is quite an effort!

***UPDATE on Stromer ST1 Motor Failure***

As soon as I finished writing this post, gushing about the joys of eBike riding, disaster struck.

I was mid way home, about to power away on a standing start at a junction. I pushed on the pedals, nothing happened, I pushed harder, still nothing untill I wobbled and tipped pathetically to the side while the other vehicles impatiently pushed me aside.

The Stromer ST1 was not playing at all, it was stuck in brake mode and it felt like I was trying to move a spin bike on the highest resistance. Worse still my monitor was flashing the message HALL. Of course that meant nothing so I googled it. Apparently it means “Motor failure – contact dealership”. That is not what I wanted to read so far from home. I tried switching off and on and eventually the message disappeared but the bike was no longer the same.

The Stromer is heavy and unwieldy at the best of times, when it decides it’s not going to work anymore it is quite a pain to get home. You can’t just bundle it in a taxi or the back of a train. I switched it off and tried pedalling anyway but it still felt like a high resistance spin bike. On the bright side, my return commute was going to be an amazing quad workout.

I did get home eventually and the UK dealer (Urban eBikes) have been very good, they are coming around tomorrow to pick it up and repair it for me, so it looks like I’ll have to dust off the oyster pay as you go for another week while they repair or replace the motor.

***Second Update on Stromer ST1 and Rider Performance***

I’ve just seen a fascinating youtube video by Adam Alter, showing a Stromer ST2 rigged up with a power meter and BSXInsight Lactate Threshold device with the rider powering up a substantial hill.

It nicely illustrates that the effort levels of the rider can still be high when riding an s-pedelec, its just that the rewards are so much greater.

Quest Protein Bars on the Settle to Carlisle Way

Quest protein bar

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.

Achieve the Impossible Fitness Tracking Dashboard

Achieve the Impossible Fitness Tracking Dashboard

Back in July I was inspired by Greg Whyte’s book, Achieve the Impossible, to knuckle down and finally nail the 100km challenge that appeared to have morphed into my very own personal Impossible.

Using the tips outlined in the book I identified the key measures of success and drew up an Excel Dashboard that I could use to monitor my progress towards my view of personal fitness excellence. I’m using the term excellence here to mean an attainable level of achievement that should put me in the best position to be able to achieve my goals.

Achieve the Impossible Fitness Tracking Dashboard

So, as I want to be strong, resilient and aerobically fit, I’ve identified 11 measures that I think will provide a good indication of my ability to run 50km and then get up the next day and run them again.

They broadly fit into the following categories:

  • Strength measures – Deadlift
  • Aerobic capacity – Cooper Test, Lactate Threshold, VO2 Max, MAF pace
  • Weight
  • Endurance – distance measures

I’m not sure that I’ve chosen the best 11 measures yet as there is some considerable overlap between all my aerobic capacity indicators but it is my starter for ten and I can easily amend if I find that another measure will more accurately indicate my ultra-readiness.

Once you’ve defined your measures of success you need to draw up a scale, I’m using 0 to 10 for each measure so that they plot well on a radial chart (as shown above). This is quite a tricky task as well. I’ve chosen to show my current position in each measure as a zero, so that I start from the centre of the radial chart, and am assuming that the only way is up – I’ve left no room to slide. Defining the 10 score is much harder. I have no clue where my “Excellence” in VO2 Max lies for instance. I could probably search t’internet for Lance Armstrong’s VO2 Max score which most people would consider to be excellent but would it be my excellence?

Given that I’m going to train clean, the answer is probably not.

It’s a problem that I can’t define excellence in all my chosen measures. It means I will only really be able to track the direction of travel, hopefully improvement, but I won’t be able to say when my target is achieved. That only applies to the aerobic measures though, for everything else I have a history and pb’s to chase. I’m very clear on the weight I need to be to feel confident on race day and the 5km time that would mean I was sprightly and as fit as I’ve ever been.

The other measures are going to have to be a work in progress. Just like me.

You can download my example Achieve the Impossible Fitness Tracking Dashboard here, but you will need to amend the targets as I very much doubt that your idea of “personal excellence” will match mine.

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.