I used to work out. It was kind of a thing. I have worked out exactly once in 2018. I did Kayla Itsines’s Bikini Body Guide Week 1 Legs workout on a Monday and couldn’t walk normally until the following Saturday.
Don’t even try to tell me that I went too hard. I won’t hear it. I played varsity field hockey throughout undergrad and grad school at Carleton and then at the University of Toronto. Practice and games were the structuring elements of my life. When I finished school and didn’t have 2-3 hours of exercise to do on a daily basis and no teammates to whom I needed to be accountable, I was totally lost.
Moving back to Ottawa after completing my master’s, I signed up for a variety of recreational sports leagues to help fill the cardiovascular gap in my life. Sure, that helped but it wasn’t the same level of intensity to which I’d grown accustomed.
A few years ago, I started doing an early morning boot camp with a couple of colleagues – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I enjoyed that and saw good results but inevitably we got bored of the same routine and the EDM remix of every popular Jonas brother song on the playlist.
Then we made the transition to Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide (now “Sweat with Kayla”). If you haven’t heard of her, you must not be on Instagram. The fitness sensation has nearly 9 million followers on the platform and posts gob-smacking transformation photos of her BBG devotees on a daily basis.
My two colleagues (a.k.a. swolemates) and I took the bait and did regular #abchecks to see if we’d achieved six packs by week 3 of the program (we hadn’t). The 28-minute High Intensity Interval Training workouts were gruelling. The first couple of weeks involved a fair bit of crawling and sliding down stairs, simply to avoid having to weight-bearing on our quaking quadriceps.
By sheer force of will (and early morning wake-up calls) we managed to stick it out through the BBG 1 (Weeks 1-12) and BBG 2 (Weeks 13-24) programs. By the end of 24 weeks, our #abchecks were a bit more fruitful, with at least 2 abs peeking out from under our dense layer of flab. Honestly, these are great workouts and if you’re looking for something new to spice up your regime, I would definitely throw my endorsement behind this option. (To be clear, this is not a sponsored post, I’m just giving you my two cents).
It’s amazing how much my appetite increases when I’m exercising regularly. Back in my university glory days, I would easily demolish four full meals a day and sometimes still fight off hunger pains at the end of the night.
I found that the most important component to fending off hunger, or in my case, hANGER, is to be prepared. No, I’m not an advocate for #mealprep Sundays because the thought of eating the same combination of things for breakfast, lunch and dinner all week long makes me want to fall off a cliff. BUT, I am a proponent of a strong snack game.
These little beauties will curb your hunger and help you hit your protein quota for the day. If you’ve ever had to suffer through a protein shake that tasted like a medicinal version of birthday cake, calling itself “vanilla” flavour, you’ll be grateful for a protein alternative that actually tastes good.
These chocolate cashew protein bars are incredibly easy to whip up and require less than 10 minutes of hands-on attention. I used straight cashew butter in the recipe but you could opt for almond butter or a combination of almond/cashew/whatever all-natural nut butter you prefer. I will warn you, make sure your nut butter is WELL MIXED before attempting to add it to the honey. Don’t even think about trying to throw it into the pot with the honey while the oil is still sitting on top of the butter in the jar, BLEND IT. I’m speaking from experience here people, save yourself the hardship.
At this point, it’s been about 6 months since I was last in a regular workout regime and without my swolemates, I’m feeling a little rudderless. I’m hoping these protein bars will be a reminder to get off the couch and into the gym.
Do you have a workout that you jump out of bed to do every morning? How do you stay motivated? Tell me your secrets.
P.S. Accepting applicants for new swolemates. Apply within.
Tired of trying to pronounce the 10-syllable ingredients on the back of your favourite protein bars? Make your own and rest easy knowing exactly what you're putting into your body post-workout.
- ½ cup honey
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- ¾ cup smooth natural cashew butter
- ¼ cup ground almonds
- ¼ cup plant-based protein smoothie powder such as Vega “Oh Natural”
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- 1½ cups puffed brown rice
- ⅔ cup dark chocolate chips melted
- ¼ cup chopped roasted salted cashews
Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
Place honey in a small pot over medium heat. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 30 seconds then remove from heat. Add coconut oil and almond & cashew butter and stir until combined.
Scrape nut butter mixture into a bowl, add ground almonds, protein powder and salt, and stir until incorporated. Add puffed brown rice and stir until well coated. Pack mixture into prepared pan and chill for 30 minutes or until firm. Remove from fridge.
Use parchment paper to pull solid bar mixture from pan. Melt chocolate chips. Drizzle chocolate over chilled bar mixture and spread into an even thin layer. Sprinkle with chopped cashews. Chill 30 minutes then cut into 16 bars. Wrap bars individually and store in a sealed bag or box in the fridge for up to 1 month.
Recipe adapted from: Mott, Eshun. "Packed-With-Protein Bars." Food & Drink. Spring 2017.