Bone Broth

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The other day, my husband Sean and I were unloading the week’s groceries and I told him not to lift too much in one go, lest he injure himself and not be able to go to the gym. He pointed out how arse-ended that statement was, and I realised how for many of us, the gym is an activity in itself. What I want to be is functionally strong, to train for real life rather than training for the gym. That is one reason I’ve been following the StrongLifts program, which works the posterior chain for functional strength. While the gainz have been slow (especially with the Overhead Press and Barbell Rows), I am steadily getting stronger with the squats, deadlift and bench press, and my thighs are, shall we say, getting more powerful looking.

A few weeks ago, I got it into my head that I wanted to go on a bulk. The aim of a bulk is to support and promote strength gains and muscle growth. But I quickly found that bulking is not as easy as simply eating more food. If only it were as easy as eating an extra scoop or two of gelato and a couple of Tim Tams. You have to eat the right (ie healthy) foods, in certain macronutrient ratios and at certain intervals. I understand now why bodybuilders tend to settle on eating the same thing 6 times a day, because if you think it is hard enough planning, cooking and cleaning up 3 meals a day, it is a right pain doing it 6 times. After a week’s half-hearted attempt, I have now settled on a “clean bulk” or so I tell myself, which doesn’t mean eating clean foods, but just that the calorie surplus is small. Frankly, though, I hate counting calories so don’t have any real idea what I’m eating.

Sometimes in the morning I’m not that hungry but if a girl wants to bulk, a girl’s gotta eat, and I have found that cooking vegetables in bone broth is a quick and easy way to get those veggies in. I’ll put some broth into a bowl, add chopped wombok (chinese cabbage) and microwave it for 2½ minutes. That is sufficient to heat the broth and also cook the veggies.

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Instead of wombok, you can also use watercress. I prefer wombok because it has a very long shelf life, refrigerated (as opposed to watercress which goes slimy in a matter of days).

Another great use for bone broth is to cook rice with it. (A bulk without starchy carbs would be really rather hard to do.) Cooking rice in bone broth bumps up its nutrient-density and makes it more tasty. I use a mixture of half long grain jasmine rice and half basmati rice (which has a lower glycaemic index than standard white rice) which is soaked overnight (if I remember, which is rare) or for a couple of hours. Soaking, while not essential, does improve the finished texture of the rice. The soaked rice is then washed until the water runs clear. To 1 cup of rice, add 1⅓ cups bone broth and bring to the boil. Once it boils, turn the heat very low, stir it a bit to dislodge any grains which have stuck to the bottom, put the lid on and set the timer for 14 minutes. Do not open the lid or otherwise interfere with the rice during this time. When the time is up, take the pot off the heat and let sit for 5 to 15 minutes.

Further Reading

Mark Sisson on ways to integrate physical movement with utility, meaning and purpose

Get down and squat

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Several months ago I began integrating mobility practice into my life, and one thing that I started with is doing the “Asian squat”. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out this hilarious video (duration: 5 minutes). Basically it’s an arse-to-grass full squat with heels firmly on the ground.

Contrary to what some believe, the asian squat is not particular to asians, nor are asians the only race who can do them. In fact, squatting is the human’s natural rest (and defecation) position and it comes naturally to kids. I have observed many times how easily my little nephews plonk down into a squat when they want to examine something on the ground, but western adults lose the flexibility to squat properly because they do so much sitting in chairs and on western toilets (yep, another example of how chairs have ruined us). Wearing shoes with raised heels has also impaired our ankle flexibility, making it difficult to squat without raising our heels.

Fortunately it is something which we can fix with a little practice. So now when I’m waiting to cross the road, down I go into squat. Ditto with waiting for a train, bus, doctor’s waiting room, whatever. I feel a little weird, especially when there are perfectly good chairs going vacant, but hey, who’s watching anyway. How about this for a challenge: when I am watching Masterchef, I have to go into a squat every time a contestant says the word “gutted” and can’t get up until someone says the words “plate up”. Until my ankles become flexible enough to allow my body weight to shift backwards, it is a bit of a pain and definitely not a position I could sustain for a long period of time at the moment, but is a technique which could well come handy in the right time, right place, off the beaten track.

Related Links

How to Squat Properly – Mark’s Daily Apple
Ido Portal’s 30 min/day Squat Challenge
Easystool Win-win, practice your squats while taking a dump. Quickly transforms your western toilet into a squat loo.