To visit the Vegan Bodybuilding website click here

Monday, 28 December 2015

REVIEW: Vegan Kefir

By Pete Ryan

I found this in a local Holland and Barrett. Rhythm is a vegan kefir drink.  Kefir is made by fermenting using a yeast/bacteria blend that live in a symbiotic relationship.  If you have followed my blogposts for any length of time you have seen that I am a fan of fermented products.  Humans are fermentation based lifeforms in many ways.  The bacteria that are part of us are constantly fermenting and fermentation is a natural state for humans to exist in. Obviously sometimes things get 'out of whack' unwanted types of bacteria and yeast invade our bodies and upset our natural balance.  One of the goals of ingesting fermented products is to aid the body in reaching ideal levels of health and vigour. You have choices of foods like unpasteurised sauerkraut, natto, plant-based live yoghurts and several others, you can also take probiotic pills, but ideally a combination based upon your health and needs will determine the best option at that time.
So, on with this review each little bottle has about 15 billion friendly bacterial friends for you to meet.  Obviously these are live you do not heat your kefir.  I simply drank the contents.  Both were pretty good.  The plain one tasted like coconut, it was quite nice, the coconut, mango and passion fruit was very fruity and had an especially nice flavour I enjoyed a lot. I think out of the two bottles I preferred the fruit one, however sometimes I don't feel that 'fruity' and having the plain option is good for times like that.
The main differences between the two nutritionally is that the pure coconut has a hint more fat and the fruity one has more carbs, so buy the one that fits your goals he best
Nutritionally (per 100g - each bottle is 126g):

Plain coconut kefir
Fat 2g
Carbs 2.8g
Protein 0.8g

Coconut, mango and passionfruit
Fat 1.3g
Carbs 8.8g
Protein 0.8g

I will certainly be buying them again and if you are looking to introduce a natural source of probiotic into your life then consider adding these to your diet.

You can get more details about these products from

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Eating vegan over Christmas

Now, I am making the assumption you are not having vegan friends around, or that you do not have a vegan family (which would be awesome!). In this I am assuming that you traditionally have family gatherings and that these often centre around meat and dairy based foods.
A lot depends on how you deal with other eating animal products.  For some they can ignore it for others they cannot.  Before we look at what you should be doing be doing, let me look at what you probably shouldn’t be doing.

Bringing up the animal consumption at the Christmas meal

This is tricky. Especially for the newer vegan (those under 10 years being vegan).  You have just discovered all the abuse, you are watching a lot of videos on the subject. Many of us (mistakenly) believed that just explaining what actually happens will convince people that it is wrong to exploit animals as we do. Unfortunately, that turned out to be wrong, we cannot convince people like that.  However, we can lead by example.  If we are confrontational at the dinner table, others will go on the defensive.  Christmas is a celebration of family togetherness.  If you attack the family they will unite against you.  You will have a horrible Christmas, and so will they.  However, if they see you are looking fit and eating lovely food, they may be more inclined to move in your direction. Most people aren’t convinced if you attack them.  All they will see is a miserable, moany person at the dinner table and be less likely to change their ways. Avoid talk of animal abuse at the Christmas dinner table and your Christmas will go much more smoothly

Bring amazing food

Simple as it sounds bringing a vast amount of amazing food will do more to convince people than any argument you can create.  If they taste your food and it is fabulous then you have won an important point. Do not bring ‘rabbit food’ to a feast.  I know fresh fruits and vegetables are the healthiest.  I know people feel awesome eating them.  However, this is not the time to convince people of that.  Today is a feast, people want cheesecake, not carrot sticks.  Accept that, buy (or make) cheesecake, roasts, whatever it takes to impress the family.  Many people think limp lettuce and stringy cabbage are the staple foods in a vegans diet.  Most vegans are actually very ‘food-centric’.  We appreciate good food more than the average person as we have to make effort to discover places that make fantastic food. Smooth the table with tempting nibbles and people will try them.

Avoid Christmas day

If you cannot bear to sit with people carving up animals in front of you, then consider visiting the family near to Christmas, but avoid Christmas day itself. I must admit, this is the option I have settled upon over the years.  I now see friends on Christmas day.  We eat a vegan roast and enjoy the day in good company without the stress of seeing an animal dismembered in front of you. This is one option that can make Christmas run more smoothly for everyone.  If you are still at home, then maybe toddle off at meal time to your room and fill up on vegan goodies or pop out for a walk until it is over.  It can be hard to watch and feel involved in a meal so do what you need for you own well being.

Consider your own needs as well as the family

It may be hard to make some choices over the holiday period.  You may have to change the way you have interacted at Christmas for your whole life.  This isn’t easy and may cause some issues.  Be true to yourself, be honest about what you can and cannot do this Christmas.  Knowing yourself is a vital step in this in this process. Above all plan a fantastic Christmas that involves family, friends and loved ones.  However misguided some family members are remember this is supposed to be a celebration, enjoy the time and do not stress. Have a fabulous times and then look forward to an amazing 2016!

Written by Pete Ryan - Clinical nutritionist, personal trainer and massage therapist. Owner of Gorilla Gym

Further reading: "How to survive Christmas" for more tips

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Physical fitness and biological aging

Aging is not really very well understood.  We know that both mental and physical decline are a symptom (if symptom is the right word?) of aging.  There are probably a host of other factors like declining organ function and suboptimal hormone profiles, but to most people physical and mental decline are the major issues that occur as we age.

The dream of agelessness

Although you can never stop the hands of time, it does appear that you can slow the speed at which you actually age biologically.  Everyone is different, we all appear to age at different rates from a biological outlook[i].  Some people look fabulous at 50, while other look frazzled by 30. You cannot change your inherent genetics, but you can ‘tweak’ the controls a little by using a technique that virtually anyone can do. Surprisingly, it is through vigorous physical activity that you lessen the effects of aging.  It has been shown that physical activity has a positive effect on both physical[ii] and mental[iii] biological age of a person.  If you apply the stimulus of exercise it will positively affect the markers of biological aging on both the body and the mind. Without exercise the body goes through an uncontrolled spiral of decay[iv].

Cell protection.

So, if exercise positively affect aging how does it affect health on a cellular level?
On a cellular level some of the health benefits seems to be that exercise somehow stops (or possibly even reverses) telomere shrinkage[v]. Telomeres sit at the ends of genes.  Usually a little bit of telomere is lost everytime a cell divides.  Once it is gone cells are open to damage and have increased chances of developing cancer and other issues.  Exercise protects these telomeres from shrinkage. Without this shrinkage cells stay healthy and vibrant for longer.

What works?

So if we know exercise helps you stay biologically younger both from a mental/physical aspect and on a cellular level, then the next question is what exercise should I do?

The answer is probably what you would expect.  Do a little cardiovascular exercise and a little resistance training[vi].  Balancing the positive effects of both seems to be the key, but you should be doing both. Add in some exercise that makes you breathe a little bit harder, but also include something that will make you stronger.  I suggest lifting weights several times a week and doing your favourite form of cardio a few times a week.  Also try to walk on a daily basis, climb stairs instead of using the lift and other things that will increase daily activity. If you can do things and try to eat a healthy diet you will be as biologically young as you can be.
Special thanks to Hugletts Wood Farm Animal Sanctuary for letting us help out there and take a few pictures while we were there (which we are using on this article). Support them if you can.

[i] Belsky DW, et al. Quantification of biological aging in young adults. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Jul 28;112(30):E4104-10.

[ii] Deslandes A, The biological clock keeps ticking, but exercise may turn it back. Arq Neuropsiquiatr. 2013 Feb;71(2):113-8.

[iii] Barber SE, et al. Is There a Role for Physical Activity in Preventing Cognitive Decline in People With Mild Cognitive Impairment? Age Ageing. 2012;41(1):5-8.
[iv] Shepard RJ. Aging and exercise. In: Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine and Science. Internet Society for Sport Science.

[v] Loprinzi PD, et al. Movement-Based Behaviors and Leukocyte Telomere Length among US Adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015 Nov;47(11):2347-52.

[vi] Kravitz L. Aerobics vs. Resistance Training. Is This the Battle of the Fitness Titans?

Sunday, 29 November 2015

80:20 diet

 Evil soup? Not exactly. It is vegan :-)
For many people finding a good balance with their diet is hard.  They go super-strict, then after a while they slip up and suddenly they go to the opposite extreme with a real binge session.  This is a recipe for dietary disaster.  You will fail to ever make constant improvements if you do not have some control over your food, however the idea of super-strict dieting will doom most people to complete failure. A way around this issue is to include some flexibility into the dietary plan.  For most people the aim of 80% healthy food and 20% of things that aren’t ideal is a good approach.  Imagine you are craving a slice or 2 of vegan pizza.  With normal dieting you would never plan on pizza, so that craving would go unfulfilled.  For many people the temptation is to eventually crack.  However when they do crack all thoughts of moderation go out of the window they will binge and all that deprivation will be wasted.
There is another option though.  You can allow yourself a little leeway in your diet.  Let’s look at the 2 scenarios:

Scenario 1

You diet 100% healthy food.  You do well for a few days, then you are out, or at a party, or just really craving something.  You have resisted loads of foods already this week, but this time you just crack.  After the first failure you think “What the hell.  I have failed anyway, so I might as well eat whatever I like.”.  You binge, you drink too much alcohol as well.  The next day you are hung-over and feel terrible, you don’t get in that days exercise session.  Before you know it you find you have completely derailed your diet and training momentum, it is 6 weeks later and you have added extra pounds of fat and lost muscle.  You start again, but soon afterwards repeat the same disastrous cycle.

Scenario 2
Your diet has planned allowances for less healthier options.  After a while of pretty good eating you get a desire for a slice or 2 of pizza.  It is Monday.  You think to yourself “OK, I won’t have that pzza tonight, but on Thursday I am going out with friends we can split a pizza.  I will even have a glass of wine.”.  You know the plan for Thursday, so when you go out you split that pizza, have a couple of slices with friends, a glass of wine and even a small dessert.  It is ok, it is in the plan, you do not binge and the next day you get the training session in and the diet is back on-track.  6 weeks later you are really starting to see the changes and everyone is noticing how good you are looking.

The odd treat may actually help keep you ontrack, as long as they are planned

That is 2 of the possible outcomes. I know which one I prefer. Scenario 2 allows for real world living and gives you some enjoyment, it doesn’t force 100% obedience to a dietary plan.  If you are out, or suddenly caught without any options you can give yourself a little leeway without the diet collapsing completely.  A dietary goal is usually to be able to look good, but it should also improve your entire life.  Ignoring the fact that you enjoy some foods that aren’t 100% healthy will not enhance your life.  If your goal is to hit the bodybuilding stage, then yes, you will need to deprive yourself, but for the average person who wants a flat stomach, a little abdominal definition, but also enjoy life allowing a little indulgence is vital for success.

So, you may ask, assuming I use this system what do I do if I am gaining unwanted fat? I would look at several things.  Firstly, I would look at portion sizes of your everyday meals and food choices for your ‘healthy eating’ phase.  Are you either eating too much, or not actually eating as healthily as you could be?  Secondly I would look at your less healthy eating choices. A few slices of pizza, a glass of wine and a small dessert is fine, but downing a dozen beers, eating a whole pizza, cramming some fried food followed by a tub of vegan ice cream will more than off-set any healthy eating done that week. Practice moderate eating of the less healthy foods. Thirdly look at your training.  You have to be working out reasonably hard to create muscle.  Muscle can make you look more toned, tighter, and getting better physically will allow you to accomplish more. Look at sleep and stress.  Sleep and stress are somewhat related, keep stress as low as possible and try to get enough sleep to feel refreshed.
If you consider all of the above you should soon find the reasons for any unwanted fat increase or muscle loss you can then make the necessary corrections if you notice you are slightly off-track.
So, to sum up.  Eat mainly healthy whole vegan foods, supplement that with a few treats a time or 2 a week. Have the odd dessert or the odd less healthy option.  Train hard, recover fully and keep stress low. If you can keep that up consistently most people will do exceptionally well, find the programme easy to stick to and make the most progress over the long term.

 Purezza a 100% vegan pizza place in Brighton. Useful to know of you are visiting!