Hello you. Judging by the improbably high viewing figures for this place over the past couple of weeks, it would seem that being a miserable argumentative bastard is precisely what my audience is looking for. Well BAD LUCK, because this week I am full of joy and happiness. It’s seeping out of every pore and gushing forth from every orifice. Joy and happiness all over the place. I will attempt to vomit some of it into your eyes.
In a slight departure from the usual crap, I thought I’d write a little bit about my experience so far with the Freeletics Nutrition Guide. I bought the guide a couple of months ago, more out of desperation that anything else to be honest. I knew I wasn’t getting the most I could be getting out of Freeletics in terms of results, and it wasn’t particularly difficult to identify why.
If you’ve been reading this blog since it started, can I first of all just say sorry. You had every right to expect that it might get a bit better after five years or whatever. However, you will also be aware of the fact that my diet and alcohol intake has changed quite a bit over the past decade or so. (Actually, not so much the alcohol intake but let’s not talk about that today.) I have a picture of me when I was 30, taken ten years ago in New York. We’d just picked up a pizza and taken it back to the hotel. It was about the size of Belgium. I thought it would be a good idea to mark the occasion, which I did by sprawling on the bed with this gigantic calorie bomb and getting my wife to take a photo. That photo shows a fat-ish knob head in boot-cut jeans looking a bit of a fucking mess. (Pretty sure I was a bit drunk as well.)
Fast-forward a few years, I started running and read ‘Eat & Run’ by Scott Jurek. I was going to write about that book in detail a while back, but didn’t bother in the end because it didn’t turn out to be quite as revelatory and life changing as I thought it would. It’s worth reading, if only to get Jurek’s take on his incredible performances at Badwater, Leadville and so on. But as you’ve probably guessed from the title, the book also deals with his take on food. He became a vegan whilst running ultra marathons competitively, so is unsurprisingly a staunch advocate of not eating meat and also questioning its perceived benefits to athletic performance.
There are several recipes in the book. They are clearly laid out and easy to follow. And with the exception of the chilli, they all taste like shit. And chilli isn’t particularly hard to get right.
Fast forward again and I bought Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s vegetarian recipe book. This has become a firm favourite, and was directly responsible for us cutting our meat intake right down, almost by accident. We never really intended to become vegetarians, but we now eat red meat probably no more than once a week. But although the recipes are great, a good number of them are probably just as high in fat and who knows what else. Fair enough; it’s not marketed as a diet book.
Anyway, since Freeletics had had a major effect on my physical fitness, I hoped that the Nutrition Guide might do the same for my diet. Has it? Well, no. But that’s entirely down to me.
When you first purchased the guide, there were something like eight recipes in it. The idea is that you are drip-fed more recipes (usually around four) each week, and they are split between breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and drinks. Let’s have a look at breakfast and lunch this week. Yes, let’s. LET’S. (By the way, I’m not going to publish all the recipes. Buy them your bloody self. Cheek of it.)
First impressions were mixed. The recipe for Swiss Muesli is, well, muesli. It’s muesli with no added sugar, but it’s still just muesli. So here’s the question: if you have a job, children and so on, are you going to spend fifteen minutes putting together your own bowl of muesli from scratch? Or are you simply going to buy a ‘no added sugar’ version and sleepily chuck some in a bowl after you’ve staggered downstairs? (For the record, I use Dorset Cereals’ Simply Original. My wife chucks extra dates and blueberries in it AND SHE THINKS I HAVEN’T REALISED BUT I HAVE. I hate dates more than that monkey in Raiders of the Lost Ark. But I generally eat them.)
Some of the breakfast recipes are laughably simple. For example, scrambled eggs and feta cheese is precisely that. A few leaves and tomatoes added but that’s basically it. It’s nice enough, but not exactly the most imaginative recipe in the world. (See also: scrambled eggs with mixed seeds.)
The ‘full English breakfast is essentially a crime against humanity. No sausages. NO SAUSAGES. FOR GOD’S SAKE, THERE ARE NO SAUSAGES. Not that I could be bothered to try it anyway. To be honest, I really have to force myself to eat breakfast. I’ve always been the same, I used to skip it when I was a kid and I still would now if I could. My mum spent about ten years trying to find something I would eat before school. She thought she’d hit the jackpot when Pop Tarts came out, only for me to politely inform here that they tasted of soap. These days I just neck a big bowl of muesli before my brain has had time to reject the idea out of hand. Breakfast has to be quick for me. And anyone that suggests I get out of bed fifteen minutes earlier in order to prepare a ratatouille omelette is getting punched in the face.
Right, now we’re talking. I work from home, which basically means I could take a three hour lunch break if I felt like it and nobody would shout at me. But I don’t. Lunch still needs to happen quite quickly and whilst I theoretically take my time over it, there is still a major ‘I just can’t be fucking bothered to make that’ factor to take into account. Tuna salad with breadcrumbs sounded good. The 25 minute preparation time required didn’t. I made it for dinner (when I more likely to actually be relaxed about spending time in the kitchen) and it was good. But it took me longer than 25 minutes, and I’m reasonably handy in the kitchen.
A highlight from the Lunch recipes is baked feta with lamb’s lettuce and walnuts. Do please bear in mind that as recently as six years ago, lunch was either McDonald’s or a garage-bought horror story of a sandwich. So the first sentence in this paragraph represents progress for me. Anyway, I never even knew I liked feta cheese. The recipe obviously calls for a low fat version, but personally I have yet to find a good one. Instead I use a full fat feta, but with only half the quantity. You don’t need lamb’s lettuce either, I just bung any leaves on there. I’ll also chop up red pepper and chuck that in.
There are some low points on the lunch section though. Fish with winter vegetables was a thoroughly depressing experience. As was the fish with tzatziki. And I couldn’t actually bring myself to make the Thai tofu bowl. But you can’t win ’em all, and the chicken curry and Spanish prawns were great. And speaking of prawns, that brings me to probably my favourite recipe in the whole guide. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…
PRAWN SALAD WITH CUCUMBER AND AVOCADO
This is brilliant, but a word of warning. It contains a good amount of raw onion. So if you’re planning on snogging anyone that day, either make sure they’ve eaten it as well or find some way to disable their sense of smell. Once again, the author of the recipe wins no prizes for an imaginative title to this dish, but it’s a winner. It’s fucking ace. Get on it.
There are quite a few other recipes on the lunch section that I haven’t got round to yet but look good. The tuna pizza looks weird but interesting, as does the tuna burger. Let me know if you’ve tried either.
So overall, there are some hits and some misses. Which brings the Freeletics Nutrition Guide into line with pretty much every recipe guide every created. You’re not going to like everything. But for what it’s worth, my wife really enjoyed the fish with winter vegetable. Whereas I felt as if I were staring into a culinary abyss, a bottomless void in which the only solace could be found in a small piece of carrot. Basically, it’s horses for courses. But if I former junk food junkie like me can be so enthused about a bloody prawn and avocado salad that he feels the need to write about it on the internet for the benefit strangers, then it’s got to be worth a look. Anyway, I’ll carry with this next week.
Outside of Freeletics, two amazing things have happened in the last seven. The first was when I went to see Jon Hopkins at the Academy in Brixton last Friday. The second was Martin Gore’s new solo instrumental album. I toyed with the idea of which to post here, but since gigs tend not to stay fresh in the mind for too long, I’ve plumped for the ‘Opkins. This is only a minute and a half long, just enough to give you a taste. It was taken on the night, the track playing is Open Eye Signal. It was bloody ace, although the inevitable 5am collapse into bed did nothing for my Sunday workout… See you soon!