The preparation for this week started early. I got in touch with the guys at The Butcher and the Chef on Monday and enquired about a large order of rather exotic meats that were coming in as I was planning on cooking for 6 people this week. The reason for this: my oldest sister and her husband were coming into town on Friday night, so the plan was dinner at my middle sister’s house, prepared by me. Easy Golden Boy points up for grabs there.
Well it’s been an interesting week. Last week the talk of horse and eating horse meat took over a bit. Many people don’t agree with it and I think many of those people got scared away from reading my post just from the mention of horse in the title. Surely the joke alone was enough to hook you though? How good is that joke?! Maybe it’s better said not read…
Anyway, this week I’ve moved to something far more helpless than Seabiscuit, poor old defenceless shellfish. Who’s looking out for them?! I’ve got a pet Oyster, but no one seems to care about that… (I don’t have a pet oyster, just to remove any real confusion on my level of weirdness).
But eating shellfish seems to be fine with the general population, who cares about them? So why not shuck a bunch of them and get amongst it!
Can’t seem to let the If its ok to kill and eat one animal for food, then why not another thing go can I? I’ll try and stop flogging that dead horse, for now.
Let’s move away from meat for a moment, we’ll dive back into shellfish shortly. This week I’d like to address the world of supplements, vitamins and dietary additives.
There is a lot out there, many product ‘facts’, ‘must haves’ and general wish-wash around this subject. Like most things health and training related, it doesn’t need to be complicated. If you see a product name that looks something like this:
ULTRA MEGA HUGE MUSCLE GAINER FAT BURNER AND OTHER EXTRANEOUS FLASHY TITLES TO TRICK YOU INTO BUYING THIS product…
Then it’s probably full of stuff you don’t need and could plain do without! I like to think the clue is in the title, and the branding. OK there is competition out there, but big flashy, busy and confusing labels and branding, in my opinion, are just masking an inferior product in order to make sales. Fair enough, I applaud small business owners for having a go. Doesn’t mean I’ll buy your product if it’s full of sh*t though.
The way I like to look at supplements is that the product should do the talking, not the label.
Of course if you don’t know any better, marketing can often do its intended job and hook you.
So, what do you look for, and what should you take?
Well, in the world of workout supplements I believe that most people who train for strength, athletic performance, weight loss and muscular size need to use a good quality protein powder at appropriate times. And remember, I’m recommending that most people should be training with resistance, for many and varied reasons.
I definitely advocate getting most of your protein, and most dietary requirements for that matter, from whole food, however just like using the world as your toilet there is a time and a place for some things. Taking a p*ss in the wild- perhaps if necessary, on a busy street- definitely not, I would think.
In the world of protein I recommend a clean Whey Protein Isolate (WPI), for post training/exercise primarily, and at certain other times if necessary if whole food protein sources cannot be obtained, or do not suit the situation.
How much will depend on the intensity and volume of your workout, but as a rough guide: 30-45g post workout. The reactions in the body can seem complicated but in short, protein post training will help cellular regeneration and repair.
From the research I have done, I believe that a pure WPI sourced from New Zealand is the best option for those of us in this part of the world.
Why New Zealand? Well of course I’m not biased in any way… My fingers just seemed to type it that way. It is generally some of the best WPI on the market. It works for me, and I manage to stay lean enough year round. And just like some of the people in this great land, a lot of Australian products tend to contain unnecessary crap. Couldn’t help that one…
For a brief read on protein powder check out this by Dr Johnny Bowden: http://www.charlespoliquin.com/Lifestyle/Nutrition/114/The_Best_Form_of_Protein_Powder.aspx
Post workout is a time to ingest pure sugars also, such as a Dextrose/maltodextrin mix, but this can also be achieved with high glycemic fruits; bananas, pineapple, dates etc to accompany your protein shake. The job of the sugars here is to help increase the uptake of protein into the cells, which means more nutrients for the cells of your body.
Within the macronutrient supplements like protein we have things like fish oil. This is a term thrown around a lot these days. I do advocate supplementing with fish oil. However, like with anything it should be a top quality product, taken at the right time in the right amounts. It has been highly researched and shown that supplementing with good quality fish oil can offer health benefits that range from neurological to cardiovascular to skin and eye health.
As with anything there is also the flip side. If you have the time or inclination read this: http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/fishoil.shtml This article sheds a different light on the popular take on fish oil supplementation. However I think there is definitely still benefit to it.
Just find a product that is sourced naturally from wild sustainable fish, take a moderate dose spread throughout the day, and see how it works for you. Try and find a product with an EPA:DHA ratio of roughly 3:2.
Moving into the world of micronutrients; again there are many things out there. Just stepping into your local health food store a million and one things hit your eyes. Much like typing Mike Campbell into Google, it’s sometimes overwhelming…
So, what do you need? Well as with absolutely everything this is individual. However there are usually some stock standards that most people these days, even those who eat clean, lack in their diets.
In general I recommend to my clients that they take a good multi vitamin in the morning with breakfast. This is the perfect way to compliment a healthy diet. Make sure it’s ingredients have proven bioavailability. Most people are deficient to some degree in zinc and magnesium and vitamin D, so in addition to a high quality multi vitamin I recommend supplementing with zinc and magnesium, and vitamin D if exposure to sunlight is low. The take home information on these is as follows:
The body has no way of storing zinc, so getting enough is crucial to maintain correct testosterone levels (yes girls, we all need this!), which help maintain lean muscle mass, you’ll also miss out on the gains from your training which will only add to this. As well as this, low zinc affects brain function and the ability to concentrate as well as reproductive health amongst other benefits.
A deficiency in magnesium is common and can seriously affect sleep and brain function. Higher levels are generally needed for athletes and people who train with weights, and again remember, we should all be doing some form of resistance training where possible. As with zinc it will affect testosterone as well as strength. It will also decrease the absorption of other vital nutrients into your body.
Vitamin D is naturally made in your body in response to exposure to the sun, so supplementing through winter months, or depressing Londonesque climates, is a good idea. It plays such a vital role in the body working with other nutrients to achieve optimum health, including immune function, bone and muscle health, reproductive health and has been linked to cancer prevention.
There are two other things I commonly recommend as regular supplementation, those are Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and a greens supplement.
BCAAs are vital to a healthy diet to ensure a healthy functioning body. They are the building blocks of protein and Essential Amino Acids specifically cannot be made by the body. Research has consistently shown that the use of BCAAs aids in healthy liver function, brain function and preventing diabetes as well as general longevity and ageing.
In terms of training, BCAAs help;
- keep you lean by supporting muscle growth and fat loss
- train harder for longer
- stay strong for longer
- aid brain function and concentration during training/sport
- reduce muscle soreness
BCAAs are found in protein rich foods and whey protein and you can use BCAA supplements specifically for training.
A greens supplement is a great addition to a healthy diet. As my earlier posts stated, I recommend trying to consume protein and vegetables with every meal. However this is a bit too hard for a lot of us sometimes, especially when it comes to breakfast. This is where a greens supplement, such as Super Greens or Vital Greens, can play a critical role in ensuring that you start the day full of essential micro nutrients and phyto-nutrients (especially from spirulina, chlorella, barley grass and wheat grass). This will also help to alkalise the body which can become too acidic from certain foods as well as training and exercise.
So to sum up, when it comes to supplements, we are looking to do exactly that- supplement what we can’t get enough of, and at appropriate times, in our regular diets. These should be natural high quality sources. Anything too much beyond that and you may well be barking up the wrong tree, or a tree that doesn’t and never has existed, such as the ‘thermogenic tree’ one of my enthusiastic colleagues stated his, well, not so natural thermogenic supplement comes from…
There are many products on the market ‘designed’ as quick fixes, fat loss tools and meal replacements. Try and be logical about this. Replacing a meal is generally not a good idea, again there can be a time and a place, but you want to compliment your meals with certain supplements to ensure a full and healthy diet, not replace with a teaspoon of questionable powder with water and hope to lose dress sizes and body hang ups.
So to reiterate: eat plenty of fresh whole foods, and add in the appropriate supplements to top up your healthy eating lifestyle.
On that note, let’s move on to real food.
As mentioned earlier, with the Horse meat post still fresh in the mind, I looked at my week ahead and realised the next meat was going to have to be early in the week. So I sat down with my part time collaborator/part time meal co-conspirator and planned out a dish using multiple shellfish.
I figured from the start of this journey that splitting these up would kind of be like cheating. With this in mind I searched my recipe books and headed off to my local fishmonger to purchase some Mussels, Pipis, Sydney Rock Oysters, Pacific Oysters and Scallops.
I have to admit that after my ‘soft’ effort at the Sydney Fish Market of “Tuna?! That’s just chicken mate!” I was apprehensive about falling out of my depth in the face of so many sea species again. This whole child and early adulthood of stubbornness towards seafood is starting to seem not only pointless but a massive hindrance. In an attempt to firmly remove my head from the sand on this front I roped in my accomplice and made some confident(ish) purchases. I was genuinely excited about my virginal shellfish preparation experience.
The idea was to steam the mussels and pipis in a spicy tomato, garlic and white wine sauce, quick fry the scallops and add a coriander and lime dressing to the oysters. All of this accompanied with some chunky garlic ciabatta and a rocket, pear and Parmesan salad.
The prep involved the slicing of a shallot, which in my book is outrageously close to my much hated onion and therefore required some trepidation and self argument.
By the time I had scrubbed and cleaned the mussels and pipis, got all the sauces and ingredients ready to go, I was pumped, however most of that might have just come from using my new knives. They’re pretty sweet.
Time to get amongst some shellfish and see if all these things that I generally argue taste like sea water and look and feel, ah… somewhat questionable… can actually taste nice.
With everything ready to go I was hungry! So we dined. I started with an oyster.
Now in the past I’ve argued that the only reason these are so sought after and loved is because they’re somewhat rare and hard to come by, like white bait. They’re not actually nice, people who like them have just convinced themselves they lurve them, whereas they in fact taste like sea water. (If you haven’t noticed already I don’t mind provoking an argument from time to time, so this has been fun).
However I can now take that argument back, to some degree. The texture is quite foul really isn’t it? But this dressing added beautiful flavour and I even managed one with the dressing poured off. It was pretty good and I’d go again for sure. In fact I have since ordered fresh oysters since that night last week- big step forward for me!
The scallops were done sans anything, in order to give an appreciation of their unspoilt taste. They were tender and perfect, and I thought they tasted pretty good, just nothing special. I can see though that if they are on a menu cooked with ingredients I particularly like, I’d definitely get into them.
Next up was the mussels, which I’ve tried a handful of times since my slow integration into broader pallet. I haven’t been overwhelmed by them to be honest, but these were different, maybe because I’d prepared myself (and we’d all love to be our own critics, however through this medium, I am, so…), but the sauce added a wonderful taste and the mussels themselves were tender, juicy and delicious. The pipis unfortunately were a bit tough. I think in hindsight as a result of their smaller size, something I didn’t take into consideration when I lumped them in with the mussels. Result– not a fan, but realise that was a cooking error.
I’m often a rapid eater, but I took my time and enjoyed these. My cohort on the other hand, murdered them and asked for more. A good sign I’m pretty sure. Not actually murdering, like with a gun, mouth murdering or scoffing you might say.
So to truly break my limited seafood taste and experiences and severe stubbornness, I would now happily purchase these guys again and cook or prepare them for myself and others. In fact I look forward to trying some fresh New Zealand Green Lip mussels next time I’m back in the Land Of The Long White Cloud. I imagine a sauce or broth will be needed initially, but I’ll work up to having them raw.
So it’s a pretty solid ‘like’ to this dish of varied shellfish. I’m being warned by some friends that I’m being a yes man and just saying that all of these meats so far taste good. I disagree with that obviously. If something is good, it’s good. Simple. I try not to make meals taste bad if I can avoid it, pretty logical really. But to satisfy those less impressed with my weekly meat feats, I’ll endeavour to cook something and rate it poorly soon. Maybe some lambs testes, who knows?! Does anyone have a meat that they know from experience just isn’t nice? This is a challenge after all, so feel free to challenge me.
I’ll rate this above the quails for sure, probably the tuna as well I think. The horse takes it by a nose… Maybe some different shellfish will make an appearance at a later point.
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Come out of your, ah.. shell…