Butternut Squash Bean Burgers

By Luke Jones. Connect with him on TwitterFacebook or Instagram. butternut squash bean burgers, luke jones, health room Serves: 2-3                                                                                  Cooking time: About 20 min

I’ll admit that once upon a time, I was quite fond of the odd burger now and again. Beefy ones, wedged in a big white roll with a sloshing of tomato sauce. Maybe a salad leaf or two if I was feeling adventurous. They tasted great, but probably aren’t classed as one of the most health promoting foods in the world…

Things have changed a little since those days. Now I can make my burgers and eat them, so to speak. Instead of beef, we’ve got beans and veggies. White baps are replaced with gluten free wraps, and the salad is much more than just a few leaves.

The burgers are held together by a simple egg replacement binder made from flaxseed and water; and they’re coated with home-made gluten free breadcrumbs.

The taste is great and the health benefits are even better. So what are you waiting for?!

By the way, the burgers, wraps and salad go well with baked sweet potatoes, salsa and hummus too.

Really hope you enjoy! Have a great day!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tins pulses (I used red kidney and aduki beans)
  • About 250g butternut squash, diced.
  • 1 large red onion, chopped.
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced.
  • 2 tbs flaxseed + 6 tbs water (egg replacement)
  • Smoked paprika
  • Ground coriander
  • A few slices of gluten free bread

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to about gas mark 6 (200 C) and line a baking tray with foil.
  2. Steam the squash for 10-12 minutes until soft, and sautee the onion and garlic gently for about the same amount of time.
  3. In the meantime, we’re gonna make the breadcrumbs to coat the burgers. Toast the bread for a few minutes, then blend in the blender to make dry breadcrumbs. In a separate dish, make up the binder by mixing your 2 tbs of flaxseed with 6 tbs warm water. Leave both to settle.
  4. In a mixing bowl, mash together the beans, onions, garlic, squash and spices with HALF of the flaxseed binder. Form the sticky mixture into about 6 burger shaped patties.
  5. Next your gonna need to take each burger and dip it in the remaining flax mix, then into the breadcrumbs, until evenly covered.
  6. Bake the burgers for about 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
  7. Serve up, and enjoy

 


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13 Vegan Athletes Performing at the Highest Level

By Luke Jones. Connect with him on TwitterFacebook or Instagram.

Rich Roll, Health Room

Rich Roll spreading the message at DC Vegfest, by Compassion Over Killing

Many people are still under the impression that you need lots of animal protein to be a strong athlete. I know I was, once upon a time…

These 13 vegan athletes are here to destroy that myth. Each of them are living proof that you can eat a plant-based diet, and reach peak athletic performance at the same time.

Check them out, and get inspired.

1. RICH ROLL

Rich was in a dark place, stemming from a lifetime of poor nutrition, alcohol, drugs, and inactivity. After struggling to walk up the stairs one day, he decided it was time to make a change.

Through adopting the ‘plant-powered’ way, he transformed himself from a sedentary middle-aged man to one of the ’25 Fittest Guys in the World’, according to Men’s Fitness Magazine.

Rich is a two-time top finisher at the Ultraman World Championships, the 320 mile triathlon race. In 2010 he also completed EPIC5 – 5 Ironman triathlons on 5 Hawaiian Islands in less than a week.

I highly recommend reading his book Finding Ultra, and dropping by the Rich Roll Podcast for some wellness inspiration. It’s well worth it, I promise.

2. SCOTT JUREK

Scott has been fuelled by plant-based diet since 1999. An ultra-running legend, he won the Western States 100 Mile Footrace 7 years in a row, and was the first American to win the 153 mile Greek Spartathalon. He also holds the American record for the 24 hour distance race (165 miles). What a hero.

He was recently seen running around Snowdonia National Park here in sunny Wales, not too far from my home. Small world! I’ve recently finished his book Eat and Run, and it’s a great read.

3. BRENDAN BRAZIER

Brendan is another former professional plant-fuelled tri-athlete. He has won triathlons at Olympic distance, Half Ironman and full Ironman; and was twice Canadian 50k champion.

He is also the author of The Thrive Diet, and runs Vega, a line of plant-based food products and supplements.

4. MICHAEL ARNSTEIN

AKA ‘The Frutarian‘. Michael runs an ultra endurance race what seems like every weekend, has done so almost entirely on raw fruits and vegetables since 2008.

In the 2011 NYC Marathon he ran a 2 hour 28 minute race (an average of 5:39 per mile!). He also has the 8th fastest American time ever at the 100 mile distance, at 12 hours 57 minutes (an average of 7:46 for 100 miles!). Bananas!

5. TIMOTHY SHIEFF 

British born free running and calisthenics extraordinaire Tim ‘Livewire’ Shieff fuels his movement with plants. He’s one of the most successful free running artists in the world, winning the 2009 Barclaycard World Freerun Championship, and also competing in the American Ninja Warrior series.

Go check out his vids if you haven’t already. He’s a cool dude.

6. MAC DANZIG

Recently retired UFC lightweight fighter Mac Danzig has been a vegan since 2004. He was the winner of Season 6 of The Ultimate Fighter reality TV show, and is also a former King of the Cage lightweight champion.

He’s also a really good photographer, go check him out here.

7 & 8. THE DIAZ BROTHERS

Sticking with the MMA theme, two of the sport’s finest and perhaps most infamous – Nick and Nate have both been long time vegans, and some say they eat a raw vegan diet leading up to fights.

Both Ceaser Gracie black belts and triathlon machines, the Diaz brothers are two of the baddest brothers in the fighting world.

9. TIMOTHY BRADLEY

Defending his WBA welterweight title against Manny Pacquiao this weekend, undefeated boxer Timothy Bradley uses a vegan diet leading up to his fights, for increased energy and better recovery. With a 29-0 record, I wouldn’t argue with him about where he gets his protein from…

10. PATRIK BABOUMIAN

Also known as Germany’s strongest man. I saw him at London VegFest last year, and he is a pretty big vegan lad.

At Toronto’s Vegetarian Food Festival he carried an astonishing 550 kilos for over 10 meters. Crazy strong. Who said you need meat to lift like a monster?

11. VENUS WILLIAMS

It’s not all about the dudes.

After being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder in 2011, 7 time Grand Slam winner Venus adopted a raw vegan diet. The dietary switch relieved most of her symptoms, decreasing inflammation and allowing the former world number 1 to get back to form.

12. RUTH HEIDRICH

An inspiration to many, Ruth used a plant-based diet to defeat breast cancer and osteoporosis. At aged 67, she has completed 6 Ironman races, run 67 marathons, and was declared “One of the Ten Fittest Women in North America”. She has also authored three books.

13. MEAGAN DUHAMEL

Meagan is a vegan figure skater, and has performed both solo and in pairs. Vegan since 2008, in 2012 and 2013 she was a Canadian Gold medallist. In 2013 she also won gold at the ’4 Continents’ competition, and placed third in the World Championship.


Thanks for reading, I really hope you enjoyed the article. If you want to find out how you can eat like the pros and reach your full athletic and health potential, subscribe by email to receive free updates!

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6 Benefits of Setting a BIG Unrealistic Goal

By Luke Jones. Connect with him on TwitterFacebook or Instagram.

Big unrealistic goal, health room

Image from Kevin

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Walt Disney

Sometimes it’s good to dream big. But we’re often instead taught to think ‘realistically’.

So many of us never get to where we really want to be, because we aim low. We set small, achievable goals and targets, just to be on the safe side. We don’t go for the big one, just in case we fail and look silly.

The safe and steady approach definitely has it’s uses, I’ll admit that. It can be a useful way to develop lasting, healthy habits for example.

But I would argue that small, realistic goals are of the most use when they are leading up to a really big goal at the end. Something huge that inspires you. Something that makes you shiver a little just thinking about it.

A 100 mile run perhaps. A handstand on top of gymnastic rings. Helping 100 new patients in a week. Opening your own chain of health centres and restaurants.

For some of you, a massive goal may not spark your interest right now, and that’s fine. But lets take a look at some of the big benefits of setting your sights high:

1. It get’s you excited.

A big goal can inspire you to get you up early in the morning. It can give you a sense of purpose and direction like nothing else. A reason to be excited for the future, and to use the present as wisely and effectively as possible.

2. You’re more likely to overcome obstacles

If your goal is big and you’re dedicated to it, nothing will stand in it’s way. Well, almost nothing… Because you are so inspired, the inevitable hurdles that will occur on the way to success will be easier to jump over or blast through, compared to if you had set a realistic goal that didn’t get you so excited. Because the potential reward is so great with a big goal, the effort you put in to achieve it will likely be greater.

3. You learn how to plan.

A big goal is difficult to realise without a good plan. Working towards that goal, you learn how to break it down into achievable chunks, but always keeping the finish line in mind. For example, if your goal is to run an ultra marathon, you may work backwards: a marathon a few months before; a half marathon 6 weeks before that; a 10k prior etc.

When you work backwards, you realise that the road to that 100 mile race starts with the first mile you ever run. It’s all upwards from there.

4. You receive support

People like to rally behind someone with a big goal. If you share your goal with others, you may be surprised at the support you receive. People are attracted to things that are extremely difficult and go against the norm. You get to connect with like minded people

5. You become empowered.

You’ve been ticking off all the smaller goals on the way to the big one, and finally you’re ready. You go for it, and you succeed. The feeling you get after success is unrivalled. You look at life in a different way. Your perception of normal is shifted. The things you once thought were impossible now seem achievable. You are empowered.

7. You open up opportunities 

Having completed such a giant task, you realise that you have the potential to do more. You can share your story with others, and inspire them to do the same. To dream big and achieve whatever they set their mind too.


Remember, even if you never reach your ‘end goal’, if you go after it with everything you have, you’ll achieve so much on the way and learn a lot about yourself.

As Norman Vincent Peale said:

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

What big goal would you like to work towards?

What steps could you take today to get you closer to it? 


Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this article. If you would like to hear more about eating well, moving naturally, following your dreams and reaching your health potential: subscribe by email to receive free updates!

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Quick Peanut, Veg and Miso Stir Fry

By Luke Jones. Connect with him on TwitterFacebook or Instagram.

Peanunt and miso stir fry, luke jones, health room

Serves: 2-3                                                                                  Cooking time: About 20 min

Asian food is so great. It’s a shame a lot of the takeaway stuff is drenched in msg, salt and oil. It really doesn’t have to be that way.

But never mind, you can always make our own!

I’m a fan of trying to simplify stuff, which is probably why I like this meal so much. It’s easy to throw together, and full of plant based goodness. Tastes pretty good too, even if I say so myself…

Hope you enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

  • Noodles (I used gluten free brown rice ones)
  • 2 tins of pulses (I used chickpeas and red kidney beans)
  • 1 pepper
  • 1 big onion
  • 1-2 carrots
  • A handful of mushrooms
  • A few big leaves of spring greens or pak choi
  • A few handfuls of frozen broccoli and spinach
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger
  • 1 teaspoon brown rice miso
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter (go organic if you can)
  • A few shakes of Tamari/soy sauce
  • A few squirts of maple syrup (optional)
  • Water

DIRECTIONS

  1. Grate the carrot and chop the rest of the veg.
  2. Add the pepper, onion, carrot, mushrooms, garlic and ginger to your big pan, and sautee gently in a little water until they start to soften. You can fry in a teaspoon of sesame oil instead if you like, but don’t go crazy.
  3. Put your noodles on to boil, mine took about 8 minutes.
  4. Add in the beans, greens, broccoli and spinach to your big pan. Turn the heat up, and keep stirring.
  5. In the meantime, make a sauce out of some hot water, miso, peanut butter, tamari and maple syrup.
  6. Add your sauce into the pan, along with noodles. Keep mixing on a high heat until your stir fry is sticky and smelling delicious.

 


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Thank you, it really means a lot!

The Floatation Tank Adventure: A Tool for Mindfulness and Relaxation

By Luke Jones. Connect with him on TwitterFacebook or Instagram.

floatation tank, health room

The floatation tank. Looking like something that belongs in space.

Last week I took a trip to London Floatworks to experience the wonders of the floatation tank. Read on to hear about my adventure, and discover whether floating may be the answer to your problems…

STRESSED OUT

Our predominantly left-brained world can get pretty stressful sometimes. Almost every day we’re trying to work things out; calculating this, planning for that.  On and on, over and over.

For a long time, meditation been presented as the answer to all our stressful woes, taking us to a mindful state and helping us make better decisions. However, two problems:

1. With stress very often comes spinal misalignment. This means many stressed out people struggle with the process of sitting still for twenty minutes a day.

2. Modern day life is more stressful than when the Buddha was around. So perhaps sitting meditation is not enough. Perhaps we need something more powerful to help us shut off and zone out. (J. Scott, 2014).

So what if there was a way we could reach an enhanced, peaceful, meditative state and completely rest the body at the same time?

There is supposedly, and it’s called floating.

WHAT IS FLOATING?

Floating involves lying down in a purpose built floatation tank, sometimes also called a sensory deprivation tank. The tank is filled with about ten inches of salty water – so dense that you float on top.

The water is maintained at the same temperature as your skin, so after a few minutes of lying still on your back you appear to be weightless, almost like you’re a head floating in space.

You can then choose to close the door of the tank and turn the lights off, leaving you alone in complete darkness.

WHY FLOAT?

Floating is designed to isolate your mind and completely disconnect you from any sensory input from the body. Because of this, it’s promoted as one of the best methods of relaxation and de-stressing.

The complete sensory deprivation also sometimes induces psychedelic experiences, due to the increased production of DMT in the brain. Trippy.

Some of the other benefits, nabbed from the Floatworks site:

  • Floating promotes total calm and peaceful relaxation, alleviating stress, depression and anxiety
  • Eliminates fatigue and jet lag, and improves sleep
  • Facilitates freedom from habits, phobias and addictions
  • Stimulates left/right brain synchronisation
  • Creates mental clarity, alertness and increases creativity and problem solving
  • Deepens meditation
  • Expands awareness, intensifies acuteness of all the senses, accelerates learning 
  • Decreases the production of cortisol, ACTH, lactic acid and adrenaline and increases production of endorphins
  • Speeds up rehabilitation and recovery, and improves athletic performance
  • Relieves pain (arthritis, migraines, injuries and so on)
  • Boosts immune function
  • Improves circulation and distribution of oxygen and nutrients
  • Reduces blood pressure, pulse, heart rate and oxygen consumption

FLOAT ON

I’d heard a lot in the past about the wonders of floatation tanks, mostly from Joe Rogan on his podcast. So last week I took a trip to Floatworks London to try it out.

After a quick shower, I stepped into the tank – a giant, futuristic looking pod with about ten inches of water in.

I was a little tentative at first, unsure whether the water would hold me completely, but was pleased to find that it did. As I laid back, I realised I’d forgotten the ear plugs the girl had recommended, so hopped back out of the tank to put them in.

As I did so, I somehow managed to get salt water in my eyes. Don’t ask me how. This hurt pretty bad. I don’t recommend it. Think seawater, times a thousand. Not a great start.

After a few minutes of mild swearing and spraying cold water from the emergency eye rinsing bottle, I managed to settle down again. I closed the door of the pod, turned off the lights, and laid back; submitting myself to the will of the tank.

My head rested near set of speakers playing quiet, relaxing music. The first thing I noticed was the tension in my neck. It seems that being weightless highlights any areas of the body where you’re tight.

The peaceful music died down after about ten minutes, and I was left lying in silence. I began to practice deep breathing, counting my breaths, but my mind was wandering a lot. Because there’s little sensory input, in the tank your thoughts are magnified. They can start to take over a bit, even more so than with regular meditation. Whenever it happened, I tried my best to bring my attention back to the breath, but I’ll admit I found it difficult.

After a while, I started to relax a little more. The tension in my neck was released, and my body seemed to melt away. I felt completely weightless. For a fleeting moment I had what seemed like a very mild psychedelic experience. It was more of a daydream really, but psychedelic experience sounds way cooler.

I was disconnected from my body, watching myself sitting outside the doors of some sort of Shaolin Temple. Apparently I’d been there for days, waiting for the monks to let me in so I could train with them…

Things were just about to get interesting, when I bumped into the side of the float tank, bringing me back to my senses. I went back to focussing on breathing, but my mind was still quite restless, and I kept hitting against the tank wall. Perhaps floating in a larger tank would be better.

I felt an itch on my face and scratched it without thinking, but paid for it a few seconds later. A load of salt water trickled down my brow and into both eyes. For a tank that’s supposed to induce sensory deprivation, I was getting my fair share of sensory stimulation via pain…

This time the salt was a bit more difficult to get out, probably made worse by the fact that I kept wiping my eyes with hands covered in salt water. Once this little ordeal was finished, I managed to lie back down and settle in again.

This time I managed to relax a little more, although I was still bashing against the sides now and again. After a bit more mindfulness meditation, the relaxing music resumed, signalling the end of the hour long session.

WRAP UP

Although I did feel a little more zen by the end and my body felt relaxed, I think I went into it focussing too much on the outcome. I was waiting for something crazy to happen, and struggled to completely let go. My mind kept drifting towards what I was going to write about later on the blog.

It was a valuable experience, and I’d recommend it to others to try, but through fault of my own I don’t think I got the most out of it.

It’s definitely something I’d consider doing again in the future. Maybe next time I’ll approach it differently, and be prepared for any salt water eye attacks…


Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this article. If you would like to hear more about eating well, moving naturally, following your dreams and reaching your health potential: subscribe by email to receive free updates!


If you want to support the site, the best way you can do so is by subscribing and sharing with others! If you want to take it a step further, you can donate via paypal in the side banner of the site. Thank you all so much, it really means a lot!

The Perfect Plant-Based Paella

By Luke Jones. Connect with him on TwitterFacebook or Instagram.

Plant based, vegan paella

Plant-filled paella.

Serves: 2-3                                                                                  Cooking time: About 45 min

Last weekend my lovely girlfriend and I put together a great big plant-based paella.

Now know what you’re thinking…

“How can you call it a paella if there’s no seafood or meat in it, dummy?”.

I’ll admit, I was a little sceptical at first too… I wasn’t sure how it was gonna turn out. But fear not – it tasted really good. So good in fact, I’d go as far as saying it was better than any seafood/meat paella that I’ve had in the past… Big claim, but it really was good.

We packed in as many vegetables as humanly possible, and it made for an awesome evening meal after a long day walking around the capital. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

INGREDIENTS

  • A few cups of short grain brown rice/risotto rice
  • A litre of veg stock (low salt)
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • 1 tin of red kidney beans
  • A load of spring greens and spinach
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup broccoli
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1-2 peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • A pinch of saffron
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • Juice of half a lemon

DIRECTIONS

  1. Rinse the rice and put it on to boil for 20 mins.
  2. Prepare your low salt veg stock.
  3. Chop the onions, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and broccoli; and sautee lightly your big pan in a bit of stock.
  4. When the veg is beginning to soften, and the rice has been on for about 15-20 minutes, add the rice into the big pan with the rest of your stock, turmeric, coriander, paprika and saffron.
  5. Leave to cook on low for another 20-30 minutes, adding additional water or stock if it starts to dry out too much.
  6. When it’s looking nearly cooked, slice your greens and add them in with your peas and beans. Feel free to add more spices at this point too.
  7. Cook on a high heat until your paella is sticky, remembering to stir so it doesn’t stick to the pan too badly.
  8. Serve up and add a dash of lemon juice to taste, and enjoy

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this article. If you would like to hear more about eating well, moving naturally, following your dreams and reaching your health potential: subscribe by email to receive free updates!

 


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5 Interesting Lessons From My 3 Day Juice Fast

By Luke Jones. Connect with him on TwitterFacebook or Instagram.

3 day juice fast, luke jones, health room

Beetroot juice yo!

A few weekends ago I watched the documentary “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”, after weeks of my lovely girlfriend trying to convince me. Actually, who am I kidding… I was pretty excited to watch it.

The documentary follows Australian Joe Cross as he embarks across the USA on a 60 day juice fast, in order to try and lose weight and rid himself of his autoimmune condition. Yeah you heard right, 60 days! I won’t spoil the rest of the story for you, but the results are pretty astounding, and the documentary is well worth a watch.

I had always thought that juicing made no sense. Yeah, it extracts and concentrates all the nutrients from the food, but why get rid of all that great fibre? Why not just drink smoothies instead? But my mindset changed a little lately, and the documentary definitely got me thinking.

Without the fibre to break down, juicing gives your digestive system a rest. It gives your body a chance to focus it’s energy on other things, like growth and repair.

Perhaps a juice fast could be beneficial to my health? I’m always up for trying new things, and I’ve heard nothing but positive things about juicing. I’m by no means looking for any weight loss, but perhaps giving my digestive system a rest would help clear up some of my health issues?

I needed to give it a try.

MY JUICE FAST

Fast forward to this weekend just gone. I was due for a colon examination in hospital on the monday, so was instructed to take a low fibre diet 2 days before, and a fluid only diet for the day before.

What better time to start my juice fast?!

I planned to do it for 3 days, rather than the 60 Joe Cross went for. I’ve done a couple of water fasts before, but the longest being just 36 hours. So I thought 3 days would be a good start. Any more and I’d be looking at quite a bit of weight loss, and I don’t have that much to spare at the moment.

So, about my fast…

WHAT DID I JUICE?

3 day juice fast, luke jones, health room

Mainly vegetables: kale, spinach, romaine, salad leaves, broccoli, cucumber, beetroot and celery. Smaller amounts of carrots and tomatoes too. And then fruits such as apples, pears, grapes and mango.

I mixed it up quite a bit, but made sure the leafy and crucificious greens made up the biggest part of each juice.

HOW DID I DO IT?

Old school juice straining

Old school juice straining

Old school.

One barrier to the juice fast – I have no juicer. But I do have a blender, some muslin cloth that my mam usually uses to make jam, and some improvisation skills. And a little patience.

So yup, you guessed it; I blended my fruit and veg into a smoothie, then strained it through the cloth. It took a fair amount of time to do, and got a bit messy, but the pulp leftover was really dry compared to most electric juicers I’ve seen.

HOW MUCH JUICE?

I made up about three lots of juice a day, about a litre each time. So yeah, roughly three litres spread throughout the day. I think the amount you need to drink will vary though from person to person. The people behind ‘Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead’ suggest around 1200 calories a day.

I also made sure to drink a lot of water too, about another two litres.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Day 1.

I felt great. If anything I had more energy than normal. There were a few times throughout the day when I maybe felt a little light headed, but that passed quite quickly.

In the afternoon I did a normal strength training session; front squats, deadlifting, and a little bit of core work. I actually felt stronger than usual.

Day 2.

On the eve of day one, and the morning of day two I had to drink 3.5 litres of this nasty ass laxative, to make sure my colon was cleared out for the examination. I think this sped up the whole detox process, clearing all the old stuff out a lot quicker.

dumbledore1Tastes pretty bad though. Actually, really bad… I felt like Dumbledore in the half Blood Prince drinking that potion of despair to get to the horcrux. Nasty.

I felt good in the evening though when I resumed my juicing. No brain fog – it was actually really easy to concentrate on writing. Even more so than when I’m eating food.

Food did smell nice though, especially as my parents were cooking up a load of sweet potatoes and stir fried veg. But I wasn’t craving it terribly. Drinking another juice got rid of any temptations.

Day 3.

Still no detox symptoms of headaches or stomach cramps, but bear in mind that I came into this fast from a pretty ‘clean’ whole food plant based diet anyway, so I wasn’t expecting massive changes.

Again, food smelled nice, but I wasn’t really that tempted.

The process of actually making the juice started to get a bit annoying though. It takes so damn long, and the juice gets everywhere. It’s almost felt like I was milking a cow, except it produced kale juice, instead of that unhealthy milk stuff…

I would definitely invest in a decent juicer long term.

5 INTERESTING LESSONS

I noticed a few cool things over the course of the 3 day juice fast:

1. Detoxing feels good.

It felt good giving my colon a rest from digesting food, and I’d definitely do it again. I think it’s something we should probably do at least a few times a year. A couple of days on as I write this post, I’m still feeling great.

2. I could concentrate more.

As I said, writing was great during the fast. There was definitely less brain fog, more room to think, less distractions.

I found meditation was much easier too. I had less mindless thoughts flying around, and I found it easy to be present.

3. I had no drop in energy levels.

In fact I probably had a slight increase. Perhaps because my body didn’t have to waste any energy on digesting food. I felt light and nimble.

4. I lost a couple of pounds.

This definitely wasn’t the goal, but it happened. Mainly water weight, as it came straight back on as soon as I ate a big salad and beans. I can definitely see how easy it is for people to lose quite a bit of weight over a longer juicing period though.

5. Fasting can give you a better relationship with food.

There were occasions when I wanted to eat over the three days, but I was never truly hungry. That’s something we rarely experience in the western world, and we often take it for granted.

What we usually think of as hunger (belly rumbling, ravings…) is merely an addiction to food. These are just withdrawal symptoms. True hunger comes from the throat. That being said, I did really appreciate my first meal afterwards.

Amazing juice pulp

Amazing juice pulp

6. Juice pulp can be used as play-dough.

That’s a new market for you to get into – green, healthy, recycled play dough. Make it into any shape you want, then chuck it into the compost recycling once you’re done. Life changing.

ROUND UP

Overall it was a great experience. Every time I fast, I come out the other side with a sense of renewal, and the same goes for juice fasting. I’ll definitely look at going for a longer period sometime in the future. Perhaps once I’ve actually invested in a juicer…


If you’re interested in finding out more about juice fasting, I highly recommend checking out the documentary ‘Fate Sick and Nearly Dead. You can buy the DVD on Amazon here, but you can also find it on Netflix.


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How to Meditate Every Day

By Luke Jones. Connect with him on TwitterFacebook or Instagram.

How to meditate daily, Luke Jones Health Room

Image by Kopp

I’ve developed a few different habits on my journey towards a healthier lifestyle. Eating a nutrient dense, whole-food, plant-based diet is one of the main ones. Performing mobility exercises every morning. Writing daily. So on…

All of these habits have been beneficial, no doubt.

However, building a daily meditation practice has perhaps had the biggest impact on my life. I’m far from an expert, but I have definitely found that meditation has allowed me to be more mindful. This mindfulness allows me to make better decisions, and develop even more healthy habits.

WHAT IS MEDITATION?

There are many forms of meditation, but perhaps the most widely known, and the one that I’m referring to is basic mindfulness mediation. It is simply a practice of cultivating awareness of the current moment, often achieved by sitting comfortably and focusing on the sensation of one’s breath.

Over time, meditation allows you to become more mindful. You can begin to take control of your thoughts, rather than letting them control you. You can stay focussed on the present, instead of worrying about past or future events.

WHY MEDITATE?

The benefits of meditation are quite astounding, not limited to:

  • Increased focus, and better decision-making.
  • Improved quality of sleep.
  • Reduced stress and anxiety.
  • Improved memory and cognitive function.
  • Better mood regulation.
  • More control over addictive behaviours.
  • Stronger feelings of compassion and empathy.
  • Strengthened immune system.
  • Links to weight loss.
  • Relief of IBS symptoms, inflammation and chronic pain.
  • Lowered blood pressure and resting heart rate.

The list goes on. And on.

Meditation has been used for thousands of years, and clearly has its benefits. More and more scientific studies are also providing supporting evidence, yet so many people still do not take advantage of regular practice.

For most, there is the misconception that meditation has to be difficult – that it involves sitting for hours on the hard floor of a temple, or you must have a special meditation teacher to do it right.

These things can be useful and no doubt they sound pretty cool, but they’re by no means necessary. Meditation can be as simple as counting 10 slow deep breaths, or sitting quietly for two minutes.

Let’s take a look at how to start building the habit, so we can begin reaping the benefits.

HOW TO MEDITATE

The key to building a lasting, healthy habit is to keep it simple. So that’s what we’ll do.

1. Pick a time.

I usually find that meditating in the early morning upon waking is best. It gives me a chance to clear my mind ready for the day ahead; I would definitely recommend it. Others prefer practising just before bed. Perhaps try both and see what works for you.

2. Have a trigger.

Something that reminds you it’s time to meditate. It may be drinking your first glass of water in the morning, or taking your contact lenses out at night. It could even be a written sign, placed next to your bed. It doesn’t really matter what it is – do whatever works for you. I find that if I don’t attach a habit to a trigger, I have a much harder time sticking to it.

3. Find a quiet area 

Somewhere where there will be as little distractions as possible. Your lounge floor perhaps, or a quiet spot in the park. Wherever you feel comfortable, and can have a few minutes of peace and quiet. The less there is going on around you, the easier you will find it to practice.

4. Sit comfortably.

You can sit cross-legged if you like, or even in the full lotus if you’re flexible and feeling badass. But do whatever feels comfortable. I usually go cross-legged and sit my bum on a couple of firm pillows, to lift my hips up above my knees. I try to keep my spine neutral, and feel the sensation of my head being pulled upwards by a piece of string.

What works for me might not work for you though, so have a play around to find what’s best. Some people even lie down, but that makes me a bit too relaxed, and I’ll often end up falling asleep…

5. Count your breaths for two minutes.

Just two minutes of your time. That’s all it takes to start your meditation practice. Everyone has two minutes to spare, so there’s really no excuses not to start.

The process is simple. Take long, slow, deep breaths. Expand your belly as you breathe in to fill your lungs with air, then contract your core on the out breath, pushing the air out. Focus on the sensation of the air passing through your nostrils on the inhale, and out through your mouth on the exhale.

Count each full breath, until you reach ten. Then start the process over again. Thoughts will inevitably enter your mind, and you will lose count. But…

6. Be patient.

Like anything else, meditation takes time and practice. You won’t be great at it to start with, that’s a given. Thoughts and worries will enter your mind, distracting you. The most important thing is to not judge your meditation. Watch those thoughts, and let them drift away. Then bring yourself back to the breath.

Don’t beat yourself up and decide that you’re rubbish, or that you’ll never be able to do it. When a baby is learning to walk, they fall many times before taking any proper steps. But they don’t fret over their failures, they get up and keep going.

Meditation is similar. Be kind to yourself. Let go of your judgements, don’t focus on the outcome, and just keep practising.

7. Build gradually. 

When you feel comfortable with your two minutes a day, perhaps after a few weeks or months, make your meditation sessions a little longer. Add on 15 seconds, or 30 perhaps. Keep it achievable though – take it slow and you’re more likely to succeed.

Over time, build up to 10-15 minutes a day, but don’t rush it. First build a solid foundation, and slowly add to it. The idea is to build a habit that lasts a lifetime, as opposed to one that fails after a few months. That way, you’ll be more likely to reach your health potential.

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed this article. If you would like to hear more about eating well, moving naturally, following your dreams and reaching your health potential: subscribe by email to receive free updates!

If you want to support the site, the best way you can do so is by subscribing and sharing with others! If you want to take it a step further, you can donate via paypal in the side banner of the site.

Thank you, it really means a lot!

 

 

 

 

Following Your Dreams – Take the First Step

By Luke Jones. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

Footprint, take the first step towards achieving your dreams. Health Room, Luke Jones

Image from Rawlinson

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Martin Luther King

A few weeks back, I wrote a post about taking the leap of faith. I talked about following your calling, being true to yourself and going after your dreams. Being authentic, and taking a bit of a risk.

Some people were totally on board. Others questioned whether this approach is realistic. How can you suddenly decide to go after something you love, and continue to support your family? What happens if you fail and can no longer provide food for your children?

I completely understand. People are quite right to question.

By taking the leap of faith, you don’t necessarily have to mindlessly drop everything, and go after your dreams with reckless abandonment and no prior planning (although that probably has worked for some people). Taking that leap involves a mindset shift; switching your focus, aligning your mission with your values, and deciding on the direction you wish to travel. Then planning ahead, and taking action.

That leap of faith is nothing without the first step.

You always hear new stories about people who completely changed their diet overnight, or quit their job and started a successful company in the blink of an eye. Radical changes seem to occur all the time.

However, these big shifts are usually made from a long series of small changes – lots of first steps. What we as the observers is often the result of years and years of dedication, failures, hard work and slow incremental progress. Nothing happens over night. Rome wasn’t built in a day, apparently.

There are obviously some exceptions to the rule. Some people with less commitments and less financial obligations can sometimes leap freely, without worry. Everyone’s situation is different.

For those with commitments; family, financial etc, taking the leap of faith is not always so straightforward. But you need not quit your job immediately, or make a massive change overnight. Instead, try picturing in your mind’s eye your end goal, then work backwards.

Which direction do you want to head in? Where do you want to be in 10, 5, 2, 1 years time?

What is the first step you can take today to help you reach these benchmarks and realise your dream? What new thing can you do each day to ensure growth, and movement in the right direction?

Can you start making a website? Do some extra learning? Brainstorm business ideas? Carry out some market research?

Can you start drinking a smoothie for breakfast? Perhaps start running a mile a day? Meditating for a few minutes?

Decide on something you can do that will take you closer to your goal today, and do it. Action is the most important part. Words and ideas are meaningless on their own. Showing up, and doing what you said you would do is what counts.

Repeat this day after day, always coming up with the next first step, always growing. You might be surprised at the progress you make.

By making changes and taking action every day, you can gradually build the framework you need to ease into a big change more steadily, if you desire. You can shorten the width of the precipice over which you will take the leap of faith, perhaps making it less daunting. You can clear some of the mist that clouds the way to the finish line, giving you a little more focus.

Having a plan or roadmap will help guide you on your way, but there will still be an element of risk and uncertainty. You will still have to make some decisions that you will be unsure of the outcome. We all know that life is unpredictable and can change at any minute, so don’t resist - adapt your approach, like water.

Despite the unpredictable outcomes, we can still control the decisions we make, and the actions we take. Those small changes may not seem like much at the time, but they soon add up to make radical shifts. Before you know it, your dreams are within touching distance. You’ve already completed the biggest part of the leap – the runup; the series of individual ‘first steps’.

So get out there, and do something each day that will take you closer to your goal. And don’t forget to enjoy the journey too.

 

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Greasing the Groove: For Super Strength and Success in Life

By Luke Jones. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook. 

Handstand, Health Room, Grease The Groove

Image by Oliver

What if I told you there was a simple method of training that would allow you to jump-start your strength gains, smash through your plateaus, and set ground breaking new personal records?

You would hopefully say I’m talking rubbish, given the tone of that first sentence…

Dirty marketing ploys aside, there is actually one training method that I have found really useful over the years. It’s not a quick fix, and still requires some dedication; but it’s been great for both building strength, and developing just about any other skill or habit.

I hope it might help you too.

GREASING THE GROOVE

Believe it or not, strength is not just a component of fitness – it’s actually a skill. There are plenty of different methods that you can use for skill development, but one of my all time favourites is called ‘greasing the groove’.

Greasing the groove involves performing a specific movement pattern as often as possible, slowly increasing the difficulty but always staying fresh and well rested. It’s been around for a long time, but was popularised by Pavel Tsatsouline, former trainer of the Russian special forces.

Pavel described the method as ‘synaptic facilitation’, which he goes into detail about in his book The Naked Warrior, so I won’t do here. He explains that “repetitive and reasonably intense stimulation of a motoneuron increases the strength of its synaptic connections”, but that sounds a little complicated.

In simple terms, it means that by performing a movement pattern often, your nervous system adapts and becomes more capable of getting your nerves and muscles to work together, like good children. Over time, the movement pattern gradually becomes easier, and starts to feel more natural.

Greasing the groove works via the near perfect combination of specificity + frequency + overload = success.

  • Specificity – Focus on one or two specific movement patterns. E.g a pull up, dip, squat, deadlift, handstand – something you really want to work on, whatever floats your boat.
  • Frequency - Perform the movement pattern as frequently as you can, whilst staying as fresh as possible. Usually no more than 6 reps, and as often as you can throughout the day, on as many days of the week as you can whilst avoiding fatigue.
  • Overload – As the movement pattern becomes easier and starts to feel more natural, you can gradually begin to add more resistance to keep the exercise challenging.

I say near perfect, as there’s another part to the equation that I’d like to add – a trigger. Having a cue to remind you to perform the movement pattern is essential, otherwise you’ll probably forget to do it, and carry on with your normal routine. Some useful triggers:

  • Set up your doorway pull-up bar and do a few pull ups every time you walk past.
  • Hold a handstand for a few seconds every time you go to the fridge.
  • Perform push-up progressions against the bottom of the stairs before you walk up.
  • Do a set of pistol squats when you enter the lift in work.

Choose whatever skill you wish; it doesn’t have to be strength related. It can even be running to the shops every time you go, instead of walking. Or meditating for ten breaths every time you get in the car.

BENEFITS OF GREASING THE GROOVE, FOR STRENGTH AND LIFE

A few of the main benefits I’ve experienced from greasing the groove:

1. Faster gains.

In terms of strength training, greasing the groove allows you to considerably increase the training volume for your chosen movement pattern. Lets take the deadlift for example.

Say you left a 100 kg barbell lying around the house, much to the despair of your family. And lets say that by greasing the groove, you do five sets of five reps a day, six days a week. That’s 150 repetitions a week, equating to 15000 kg in terms of total weight lifted.

If you were instead to perform three typical hour-long strength sessions a week, lifting 5 reps of the same weight, for five sets – that’s a total of 75 reps a week, or 7500 kg total. That’s half the amount you lifted by greasing the groove.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that lifting more weight will make you stronger, quicker. I’ve used greasing the groove to go from one body weight ring dip, to sets of 5 with 20 kg added in just a couple of months, and I’m now using it to work on handstands. Many power lifting and strongman champions have also used it with huge success.

2. You avoid fatigue.

In a traditional block session of skill training, you only have a certain amount of time to get stuff done. Along with the actual time spent lifting, this time period includes your rest –  which is just as important as the movement itself.

To develop strength rather than muscle size, it’s most effective to have long rests in between movement sets – around 5 minutes. But this is often jeopardized by the limited amount of time you have in the gym, and the want to get as much done as possible. Fatigue is inevitable, which can sometimes lead to sloppy form, increased injury, and slower strength gains.

Greasing the groove, you spread your work load over a longer time period. You’re almost always pretty fresh if you’re doing it correctly, meaning you’re less likely to get injured and more likely to perform well.

3. You save time.

Not everyone has the luxury to go to a gym for a few hours several days a week. And lots of people like to use that old excuse – “I’d love to exercise but I don’t have the time”…

No more excuses. Greasing the groove, you don’t have to take a big chunk out of your day and dedicate it to the gym. You can exercise on your own terms (or on the terms of your trigger). You can fit it in throughout the day, and still reap the benefits.

4. You can focus on your weakness.

You are free to carry on with your normal training routine, but grease the groove with one specific movement you want to work on. If, for example, you have the classic rounded shoulder posture, with over developed chest muscles, and weak back muscles – you may wish to grease the groove with a pull-up. Skinny legs like me? Maybe work on squats or deadlifting.

You are free to choose any movement pattern that will take you closer to your goal.

5. It feels quite natural.

Spontaneous movement can be a great escape from the monotony of every day life for some people. I for one feel weird standing there staring at my computer screen all day. It just doesn’t feel natural. I need an outlet to escape, and move.

Greasing the groove serves as a much-needed mini break, a chance to recharge.

We are built to run, jump, climb, swing, squat. We were designed to move – not sit and slouch. Greasing the groove makes that movement possible.

6. It’s great for the kids.

The children of today are growing up with Ipads and Xboxes, as opposed to bikes and toy swords. Back in my day…

I’m by no means saying you should be getting your five year old to dead lift, but it may be a good idea to try different ways to get more movement into their everyday lives. Greasing the groove can be a fun way to do so.

I’ve heard one story of a parent that turned their house into a bit of an obstacle course, with climbing wall holds and ropes that could be used to reach the upstairs. This may sound a little extreme, and you might not fancy a jungle gym house right now (like I do), but I’m sure there are plenty of other ways you can be creative and get the kids more active.

A few star jumps before breakfast perhaps. Or some forward rolls before dinner. I don’t know, I’m no expert on this one… I think the ideal though would perhaps be to help the kids enjoy being active in the first place. Encourage them to move naturally, and treat it as play rather than military style training. Make it fun, and keep it fun.

7. Greasing the groove transfers across to habit-forming.

This is the big one that applies to everyone and everything, so thanks if you’re still reading…

The keys to success with greasing the groove: specificity, repetition, trigger and overload, apply to any habit you are trying to develop; whether it’s lifting heavy stuff or meditating. It’s a very transferable training method.

Start with a specific skill or habit, and make it easy enough so that you can do it frequently – ideally multiple times a day. Use a trigger to help remind you that it’s movement time, and as the habit gradually becomes easier, adjust it to increase the difficulty.

And you can grease the groove with greasing the groove, in a way. The more you practice greasing the groove with certain skills or habits, the more you get accustomed to it and the more you can apply it with other aspects of your life. The stronger you can become, the more healthy habits you can develop, and the closer you can become to reaching your health potential.

That’s all for today people. Have a think: what habit or skill have you always wanted to develop? What can you apply the ‘greasing the groove’ method to?

If you would like to hear more about living healthily, eating well, moving naturally and following your dreams: subscribe by email to receive free updates!

If you want to support the site, the best way you can do so is by subscribing and sharing with others! Thank you, it really means a lot!