Jimini’s Cricket Flour Protein Bars – a Review

The review you are about to read is my own work, my personal opinion, and has not been influenced by the producer/distributor of the product.

Yes, you read that right. Cricket Flour. From Crickets. You know, Grasshoppers.

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Jiminis Protein and Energy Bars

Unless you’ve been living in an isolated bubble from environmental change conversation, you’ll have seen a slow but assertive rise in the discussion about the farming of insects as a potential protein source for the the future. Billed as a sustainable way to alleviate the problem of providing enough protein to fill this globe’s need for food, insects have been pounced upon to save the day. As you might expect within western nations, the thought of eating insects hasn’t really gone down all that well. But marketers being clever people, they always find a way around it.

Despite evidence disproving the sustainability angle of eating insects (here), I’d like to introduce you to Jimini’s Cricket Flour protein and energy bars. I read about them while researching alternative protein powder sources for sports supplementation and boldly approached them to ask for freebies in exchange for a review- who doesn’t like a freebie!?

Enthusiastically, they swiftly despatched 4 bars to me, 2 of the protein bars and 2 of the energy bars. I distributed them around our coaches in CrossFit Watford and their thoughts are incorporated in this.

In order to overcome the squeamishness of the western European market, they’ve done away with presenting insects to us in an “I’m a celebrity…” fashion. Instead, the insects are bred (they are animals after all), killed (or left to naturally die, I don’t know), dried out and powdered. That ‘flour’ is then what is contained in the bars.

Ingredients. And a top way of doing it it is too. Containing nuts, fruit, a little honey, and some spices, they look and feel a lot like the explosion of other cold-pressed ‘paleo’ bars on the market. They taste almost identical too. And the texture is no different. In fact, the very best thing that I think I can report is that you would have no way of knowing that insect powder makes up a significant portion of it, without looking at the packaging.

 

 

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Taste & Sugar. They are nice. Very nice. What’s not to love about a sweet snack bar that you know is ‘healthy’? They’re not too sweet either. I tried the energy ones (still containing over 5g of protein per bar) and wasn’t left with the sickly taste that often come a from sweetened products. They’ve got the balance right there. Still, there was over 14g sugar (honey) in each small energy bar. Typically, you don’t find added sugars in a cold-pressed fruit product and I wonder why it was felt necessary.

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Protein. Despite them focusing on crickets as the source of protein, there’s actually more pea and sunflower protein than that from crickets. I do find this a little disingenuous but nothing out of the ordinary. The protein bar versions have approx 8.2g of protein in, from various sources, as I say.

CrossFit. I typically train at 0600hrs. This requires waking at 0520 and I’m not able to eat much beforehand. I used 2 of these bars, 1 per morning, to see if I had enough energy to get through a morning’s Strength and MetCon workouts. Normally, I eat an orange or have a teaspoon of peanut butter as it’s mostly all I can stomach at that time. Although it was only 2 workouts, I can say that I had more endurance than normal for the hour period. I put this down to the honey in each bar and it’s prompted me to include a little more sugar in my pre-WOD. I can’t vouch for the effects of the protein though, I think that takes a little longer 😀

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The flavours are nice and varied. My favourite was the Banana & Dark Chocolate.

Allergens. Responsibly, I have to mention that those with seafood allergies need to steery well clear of any product containing insect matter; the same reactions came develop! Enough said on that one!

Summary. I liked these bars. Taking the insect element out of it, I found them to be tasty, with a good texture and not sickly. They have a bit more sugar in than I am personally used to but this based on my own approach to macro-nutrients and should not be taken as a negative. As I write above though, they may have powered me to a bit more in my workout than my usual early morning feed. I RECOMMEND this product if you are looking for something a little different in your diet and take the view that insects just might be the future of mass protein intake.

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Travel Fitness

I travel. A lot. It’s what gave name first to NomadCelt, and then NomadicCrossFit. We move home every 2 years (mostly), I travel to multiple countries regularly with work, and we get away for annual holidays abroad. With this travel comes the mode of transport, the lack of routine and general lack of equipment. So how is a fitness practitioner supposed to workout?

It would be too easy each time to shrug your shoulders each time and claim, “there’s nothing I can do, I could use the rest anyway”. However, if you travel as I do then your well-gotten gains will swiftly vanish. You have to find a use for what is around you and fit it to your goals. Of course, better yet, ask a coach before you go! You have your bodyweight, you can find heavy shit to lift, there’s always somewhere to run/jump/move. At worst, you can at least maintain your fitness while away, if not improve upon it.

I spent this last week in Spain, away from the awesomeness of Crossfit Watford but inspired by their daily endeavours.

Hypertrophic exercise is a superb way to maintain (and build) strength. This simply means “time under tension”. In this case, holding the eccentric (stretch) phase of a push up, followed by a rapid and explosive release, is great. You may have noticed how we enable new athletes to progress to pull ups through “negatives” – slowly releasing from a complete pull all the way to full extension. It’s the same thing. It builds strength quickly and safely. You can do this with pull ups, push ups, squats, sit ups…be imaginative! Just don’t expect to be able to achieve max reps with this method, they’re tough and they take it out of you 😉

Gymnastic movements are the best way to use bodyweight to build strength. Multi-joint, compound movements that require a good degree of skill, coupled with high volume, less skill movements makes for a good little workout. This particular one requires no equipment other than a wall, and even then can be done as decline push-ups if no wall is forthcoming – as it happened, I had no wall.

Monostructural movements (running, swimming, cycling, etc) are obviously superb and accessible anywhere. Why not add a little something extra though. With a small pool, and no running shoes, you’re almost forced to. Instead of trudging begrudgingly through mindless laps of a tiny pool, throw in some other movements. This has the added bonus of forcing you to move quickly in and out of the pool, practicing muscle up skill movements too! I was also pretty fortunate this week to find a beach with an awesome current that I could swim against in a kind of “infinity pool” fashion – great exercise!

Power and explosive strength work is possible too. This little couplet was a beaut, smashed out on a soft, sandy beach. Sure, it was only 3 mins (or so) of work but I was busting a gut by the end. The squat tuck jump is a unique skill too, give it a try. This particular one workout had me feeling like I should name it… what do you think? Know any particularly mean people you want immortalised as a WOD?

Flight WODs are also possible. Requiring little space (even the space between the aisles), there are plenty of movements that you can stitch together in to a meaningful workout. This particular effort had the cabin crew stealing it for future flights! Of course, that was after staring and laughing at me while I brazenly hammered it out over the north Atlantic. For all of the in-flight advice to do a little light stretching throughout, I think mine is better.

Slow Down, you’ll go further, perhaps faster.

While walking along the north Norfolk coast this weekend, I had a glimpse of true relaxation. For a brief moment I understood something that self-help books have preached for years – Slow Down.

In the modern world, Expectation governs all we do. Everything is at 100 miles per hour. Everything has a deadline. Everything has to be completed perfectly or not at all. Yet, rarely do we achieve perfection, and certainly not to the deadline. We rush about thinking we know what is expected of us, believing we know what others want from us, or what we absolutely must get done for ourselves.

And the fact is, it’s bullshit.

We wrap ourselves up in this expectation, without seeing the stress and damage it is putting on us. Sure, we all have responsibilities, that’s true. And some things do need to be done on time, and sometimes highly precisely. But not everything. Indeed, not even most things. The harm that this stress is putting on us (me) is far more critical and must be addressed. Tension, disagreements, upset. It all becomes too frequent. Mistakes happen. The stress increases.

And it was while laying on my back on a sun-dried marsh, staring at the sky, that I took a deep breath and …. relaxed. The clouds wandered past, the faces and animal shapes morphing gently. The boats floated to the breeze alongside. There may have been a call from a tern but I started not to notice or care. I lay there and realised how tightly wound up, how tensed, how detached I have become. I saw how the expectations of my working life have driven my behaviour in my private life. For that fleeting space, my mind lifted to those clouds and I discovered how some times could be if I just slowed down for a moment.

Imagine dropping from 100 miles per hour to 80. Pretend that the spelling mistake in that bit of work doesn’t matter. Take a chance and disbelieve that you know what the important person next to you really wants. Will anyone notice, as they speed around in their own frenzied bubble? When you’ve tried it, picture how your shoulders might feel. See your vision opening to take in more of the world around you and not simply tunnelling in to that one task. Enjoy the unexpected for-no-reason-at-all smile.

Do you think you may just achieve that next task a smidge better without the stress? You just may!

Do you think someone might notice that smile though? You betcha!

And, of course, the brief break in time was sped up as my little Action Princesses lost interest in the clouds and wanted their next hit of excitement, almost skidding over in a less dried out area of the marsh as the rush restarted.

But I did notice that my strides were a little shorter, my pace a tad slower, and my breathing just a fraction quieter.

The smile broadened that bit bigger, in to a grin

Nomadic Gains

Sorry, sorry, sorry!

Yes, I know it’s been a few weeks since the Huel Review post. I have no excuse and seek your forgiveness. Do I have it? Cool, thanks! You guys and girls are great.

So, I’ve been away for the last few weeks. My travels and holidays haven’t stopped me working out though, and I’ve seen gains on the way.

Before I get in to the travels….a new Clean & Jerk Personal Record! After the 103.5kg a short while ago, I then nailed 105kg…followed with 107.5kg in the garage gym, on a Sunday! @amrapplusone programming really pulling me up this hill. Love it!

First up, Tampa, Florida. Yeah, boy!

Florida in July. All with work but after a 9hr flight, I was invited to throwdown in CrossFit TAS by a long-time buddy of mine. Yep, within 90 mins of landing, this was us:

CrossFit TAS are regular Regionals Team competitors and yeah, it shows. What a box. Newbies and elite athletes throwing down together to the same programming each day. Immense attitude and genuinely friendliness too, top bunch. It was awesome to catch up with Roly. He got me in to CrossFit in early 2012 although he has really progressed onward and upward. Great to see.

Next up, back to the garage gym and another Personal Record, this time in the Snatch.

Using my 10.5kg York Beefy Bar, and a random collection of old plates, I secured a 77.5kg Snatch. That’s 2.5kg higher than a number that I’ve held for over 2 years, unchanged.

Staying in the garage gym at home, I also recorded this little number: https://youtu.be/kRCmAJJirJQ

Do check it out.

In between all of that, I’ve been getting workouts in regularly, not letting the excuse for a British Summer put me off with its regular downpours and cold snaps. We’ve also been out and about in Cornwall and North Devon. While I have no photos, I did this on the beach in Combe Martin:

I ran the mile down to the beach in an ok 7:30, did the WOD with a piece of wall, bricks and cement (all unbroken) and then staggered back the second mile.

So, it’s been a good couple of weeks away. Back now, and back in C.F. Watford for the next few weeks, I’m looking for some more pre-summer holiday gains and improvements.

Watch this space!

Huel – a Review

The following review, and all sentiments contained herein, are completely my own and have not been subject to approvals from the provider.

Bottom Line:  Recommended

 

Sucking in the dust, dirt and chalk from the floor one morning (after an awesome WOD, I should add), Steffi came over and asked if I would be able to take a look at products from a company she works for. I’d seen the simple white packaged bars on the counter before but had never opened a Huel bar up to that point. When I peeled my sweating form out of the angel shape on the mats, I told her that I would absolutely love to but that she should know that I ordinarily err on the side of negativity towards meal replacement products. She grinned and excitedly explained that Huel is different; nutritionally balanced, basic, no soy, supporting everyone from athletes to regular no-gym-Joe who just wants to have a better nutritional option than snacking on less healthy options. Well, her excitement immediately sparked mine and so I agreed.

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Picture from Huel.com

Nutritional Balance

Throughout,  I have struggled with identifying who the target audience of Huel is. I have seen it more in gyms and CrossFit Boxes than anywhere else yet the website focuses more on it being a whole meal replacement. The needs of the powerlifter, high intensity sportsman, 45 year old house husband and 8 hr a day sedentary office worker are all different – this includes macro nutrient as well as micro nutrients.

The precise breakdown of the two primary products I shall go in to individually. Taking in to account what I said above, this is the most balanced product that I have ever come across. Not only at the micronutrients balanced to the ‘designer’s’ precise requirements but the micronutrients are too. A complete vitamin and mineral profile is included (even Vitamin B12, which is uncommon in a product aimed at vegans too due to its source typically being from animals – in this case it is from cyanocobalamin, from bacterial synthesis), which gives me a real sense that this product has been designed with genuine care to the individual, and not just about marketing for profit. However, this careful balancing does result in one or two issues.

The Powder

I was given the latest blend of the vanilla flavoured powder. Made largely of powdered gluten free oats as a base,  this vegan product includes rice protein and pea protein to give a nice blend of fast/slow absorbed proteins – not a trace of cheap soy protein anywhere. It mixes very well in water, although I prefer it with skimmed milk, and naturally thickens to a lovely consistency. The taste is one of the best on the market, I believe. Without overdoing it, they’ve gently added some natural vanilla flavour that just ‘works’. Even with just water,  the blend keeps you feeling full for and a long while.

An unexpected bonus of the powdered oat base is that it can be used as a flour substitute. I’ve used it to make my one-minute microwave cake and I never want to go back to my old recipe. This was awesome.

The macronutrient profile of this is approx 40% carbs  (when you include the 3% fibre), 30% protein, and 30% Fats. It is almost entirely in line with my own requirements as an amateur but very regular CrossFitter. However, I’ve yet to come across definitive science that informs the precise nutritional breakdown for individuals….at least not a profile that everyone agrees on because everyone is different. That said, at least there’s thought behind this.

Depending on your meal breakdown of either 4 or 5 meals a day (if taking as a meal replacement vice sports supplement), it is either ~400Kcal or ~500Kcal respectively for a meal.

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Picture from Huel.com

The Bar

Vanilla and Cocoa. There is a thought by some sports ‘purists’ that supplements/ replacements should have no flavouring. I utterly disagree with this. Food has to very enjoyed in whatever form you decide to take it.

This bar tastes good. It looks good. I really enjoy eating it.

There is a common criticism, that Huel are aware of, which is the texture. Unlike the oily, chewy mass you get in almost all other bars of this nature, this is crumbly. It breaks apart easily and is a little dry. Because of the blend, and the rigidity with which they stick to their balance of nutritional ingredients, there are no preservatives, no fillers, and no gluten. This leaves a crumbly texture that does take you by surprise a little to start with. Stick with it. The flavour is great and you just need a little water sometimes with it. Have faith that there’s good reason behind it.

The macronutrient balance is different to the Powder,  with a higher level of carbs, slightly lower protein percentage and even lower fat – 53% carbs (inc 12% Fibre), 25% protein, and 22% fats. This makes it far more suitable as a post-workout option and I’ve typically used it as such. Each bar is 250kcal.
Combination 

As a combined meal replacement product, the powder and bars are able to sustain you with that balanced nutritional makeup – 2000Kcal for just powder-based meal replacement and than an extra 250Kcal per bar.  Looking through the ingredients, they are all things I recognise and understand. I trust this product would support me, if needed.

Could I eat it as an ongoing replacement? Not personally. Both keep me feeling full, as a combination of oats, the protein, and natural coconut / flaxseed oil. However, I need variety in my food. There are flavour packs, which I’ve not yet been given the opportunity to review, to give a little change but I need my veggies and different textures.  That said, I have used both bar and powder instead of a meal if rushing about town. Because I trust in the quality and make-up, I don’t then feel the need to snack elsewhere.

Summary

For someone who doesn’t agree with meal replacements as a means of nutritional control, I’m actually a convert to this. With my biochemistry head on (albeit from 16-17 years ago), I ‘get it’ and can understand the scientific passion behind this product. For those working out, I recommend the bars as a post-WOD snack instead of quite a few of the other brands out there. I recommend the powder too, it’s kept me going when on the run and has left me feeling full for longer than a typical bowl of porridge does – do try it out as a flour substitute too!

p.s. I’ve not had a chance to review the t-shirt either 😉

Links

Huel Website – www.huel.com for further information

Dealing with anticlimax and disappontment

Awaking early on a Sunday, I was excited. My first competition in well over a year. Not a race I could win but one to truly challenge myself. Not sports I would usually go for either,  but something relatively new. 

I headed downstairs for my big bowl of oats. Cup of coffee, staring out of the window at the grey, brooding skies…quick check of the Met Office app – yep, a little drizzle, some light breeze, but ok. Taking the Earl Grey up to Mrs Nomad, I flicked open the drawers to get my race kit out. The wetsuit, goggles and trunks were already good to go by the door. The warrior princesses awoke and we got them through breakfast before swiftly dressing and shuffling them in to the car.

My excitement was building,  I’ll admit. Having not had any form of competition for so long, the chance to just launch from a start line, surrounded by 249 others, was compelling. 

We headed off along the A38, and then down narrow country lanes, weaving through Devon villages still silent on a Sunday morning. The turning for South Milton Sands loomed, the National Trust Car Park symbol leading the way. We crested a hill and saw it…the sea…the start…a little choppy….a lot choppy. 

Parking among the few early arrivals, I jogged over to the TrailEvents.co marshalls setting  up. “1km Sea Swim, 15km Trail Run”, the billowing banners read. “Not a chance”, the faces said. “Sorry mate, swim cancelled, we can’t get the safety boat out – you can still run though, or you can defer.”

£40 for a 15km run on public roads, Mrs Nomad and the girls sitting in the car?

No chance.

And with that, it with as over and we were driving away, back through the Sunday morning villages. No race. No challenge. Gone.
What hit me very quickly was pretty intense and unexpected. 

The sense of anticlimax was pretty tangible. It felt like a new emotion, having not really felt this for a very long time. I’d paid, physically prepared, mentally prepared, was ready, and then…….flat.

So what do you do? How do you overcome that? What’s next?


Well, for starters, the weather improved within an hour, as did my mood 😉

Acceptance

You can’t get around it. The event was cancelled. There’s no arguing or challenging, it’s done.  Let the emotion do its thing and learn from it for the next time.

Achievement

I conducted a whole heap of new training that I was unaccustomed to before.  I’m not much of a long distance runner and I’m certainly no swimmer. But I achieved new skills and new levels of Fitness that are transferable back in to CrossFit and for the future. Didn’t Greg Glassman tell us to, “Learn and play new sports” in the “What is CrossFit?” genesis document? How many of us regularly do? So this is a new achievement and should be celebrated.

Motivation

Tap in to the motivation that was there when you woke up to compete and set a new challenge as soon as you can. While I’ve been focusing on endurance, it was at the expense of strength and CF competitions. Immediately, I reached out to Charlie Goode, our Coach-in-Chief and asked for comps.

Build

Take the new skills you have and build on them. I’m not going to now put my wetsuit to one side and say, “thanks”. I’ve given myself the challenge of getting to a lake, and doing a swim/Run on my own or with a friend. I need to see this through, if for nothing but closure. After that, I will continue to seek open water swimming opportunities.

This has been a learning opportunity for me. I didn’t like it at first but I’ve seen strong positives in it. I am stronger now as an athlete.