Try JOE WICKS’ tips for meals that perfectly complement your workout

January can be a tough month — add a pandemic into the mix and it’s hardly surprising many of us are struggling. But this is where exercise comes in, writes Joe Wicks (pictured)

January can be a tough month — add a pandemic into the mix and it’s hardly surprising many of us are struggling. But this is where exercise comes in.

Because exercise isn’t just about looking good; it’s about feeling good, mentally strong, energised, optimistic, confident and in control. It can play a huge part in managing anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and stress.

There are three main types of exercise so let’s break them down.

HIIT (high-intensity interval training) consists of short bursts of maximal effort, followed by a rest period and repeated multiple times. It’s about pushing yourself to elevate your heart rate and typically lasts 15-30 minutes.

Resistance workouts involve increasing your strength and lean muscle by loading muscles with weight. That could be your own body doing a push-up, or by using weights which you increase over time.

LISS (low-intensity steady state) cardio is less intense, with longer periods of continuous exercise, such as walking, jogging, cycling or swimming for 30 minutes or more.

I’ve always been a huge fan of HIIT as it’s an effective way of getting maximum results in the shortest possible session — perfect for people short on time.

But the most important thing is that you enjoy exercise and the feelings you get afterwards. And it doesn’t need to be extreme to be effective. Remember, all movement requires energy, so all forms of exercise are beneficial.

My advice would be to aim for 4-5 exercise sessions per week, but if you can’t always manage that, it’s not a problem: do what you can. I believe 15 minutes is better than nothing

Plan your sessions into your week and block out a time that suits you. Lots of my clients like to do their workouts first thing in the morning — it can be truly transformative, it wakes you up, gets you energised. Once you’ve worked out your exercise plan for the week, you need to think about what you’re eating.

On an exercise day aim to eat two reduced-carb meals, one post-workout carb refuel meal and two snacks. On a rest day aim to eat three reduced-carb meals and two snacks. It’s that simple.

Don’t let lockdown be an excuse not to exercise. If HIIT’s your thing, do one of my workouts in your sitting room. If you prefer a lower intensity form of exercise, go for a walk or jog around your neighbourhood or park.

The bottom line is to commit to doing something each day and see how you feel afterwards. 

Most people take the view that motivation leads to action. But I believe it’s the opposite. Action leads to motivation, and that leads to more motivation!

Spinach daal with poached egg and crispy onions

Serves one

  • ½ tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tsp garlic-ginger paste
  • ½-1 tbsp medium curry powder, depending on how spicy you like it
  • 1 x 400g tin green lentils
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 2 large handfuls baby spinach leaves
  • Drizzle of hot sauce
  • 2 tbsp crispy onions

Bring a kettle of water to the boil. Meanwhile, melt the coconut oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. 

Spoon in the garlic-ginger paste. Cook, stirring for 30 seconds, then sprinkle in the curry powder. Cook for 30 seconds more. 

Tip in the tin of green lentils, along with its water. Stir, season with a big pinch of salt and pepper, then leave the quick-cook daal to bubble away.

Pour the boiling water into a saucepan over a medium heat. Once re-boiled, carefully crack your egg into the hot water, reducing the heat until the water is simmering. Cook the egg for 3 minutes for a runny yolk, then lift it out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

While the egg is poaching, drop the spinach into the daal. Once the leaves are wilted, dish up the daal in a bowl.

Place the poached egg on top of the daal, drizzle with some hot sauce and scatter over the crispy onions to serve.

Spinach daal with poached egg and crispy onions

Spinach daal with poached egg and crispy onions

Joe’s mustardy ham, egg and chips

Serves two

  • 2 large potatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Big pinch of smoked paprika
  • 2 x gammon steaks (about 180g each)
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • Drizzle of honey
  • 2 eggs
  • Condiments of your choice, to serve

Preheat the oven to 220c/fan 200c/gas 7). Bring a kettle of water to the boil. Leaving the skin on, cut the potatoes into chunky chips.

Pour the boiling water into a saucepan over a medium to high heat. Salt the water, drop in the chips and cook for 3 minutes. Drain into a colander and shake off any excess water. Leave the chips to steam for a few minutes, then tip onto a baking tray.

Drizzle over 1 tablespoon of olive oil, season well with a generous pinch of salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Toss together using tongs, then spread the chips out into a single layer. Roast for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and crisp, flipping the chips halfway.

Once the chips have 15 minutes of cooking time left, heat a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. 

Pour in ½ tablespoon of oil then place the gammon steaks in the pan. Fry for 5 minutes on each side, then transfer to a baking tray lined with tin foil.

Spoon the wholegrain mustard over the gammon steaks and drizzle over the honey. Slide into the bottom of the oven while you fry the eggs.

Put the same pan back onto the heat (no need to wash it first as it will impart extra flavour). Pour in the remaining oil, then crack in the eggs and fry to your liking.

Dish up the chips between two plates. Place a honey and mustard gammon steak alongside, with a fried egg. Serve with condiments of your choice — personally, I like ketchup. Dream food!

Joe’s mustardy ham, egg and chips

Joe’s mustardy ham, egg and chips

Baked aromatic chicken and pistachio pilau

Serves three

  • 240g basmati rice
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 tbsp mango chutney, plus extra to serve, optional
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 large bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces — I like thighs and drumsticks (about 750g)
  •  2 tbsp olive oill 50g pistachios
  • Handful fresh coriander
  • Low-fat yoghurt, to serve — optional

Preheat the oven to 200c/fan 180c/gas 6.

Wash the basmati rice in a bowl of cold water, using your fingers to rub the grains together. Drain off the water, then repeat until the water is no longer cloudy. Tip the drained rice into a large shallow ovenproof dish or casserole pot.

Bring a kettle of water to the boil. Put the chicken stock cube into a jug, add 600ml of boiling water and whisk with a fork to dissolve the cube.

Pour the stock over the rice. Add the sliced onions, mango chutney, cumin seeds, bay leaves and ground turmeric, mix well to combine. Season with a generous pinch of salt and black pepper.

Season the chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper then place in a single layer, skin side up, on the rice mixture. Drizzle over the olive oil then cook in the oven, uncovered, for 40-45 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed by the rice and the chicken is cooked all the way through and looks golden.

After 30 minutes, toast the pistachios in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until they smell nutty. Leave to cool then roughly chop, along with the coriander.

Scatter the pistachios and coriander over the baked chicken pilau. I like to serve this out of the pan, with dollops of yoghurt and mango chutney, if you like.

Veggie swap: Swap chicken pieces for 1 large aubergine, cut into small chunks. Mix with all the other ingredients before cooking in the same way. Serve with 3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved, on top. 

Baked aromatic chicken and pistachio pilau

Baked aromatic chicken and pistachio pilau

Kale and walnut pesto gnocchi

Serves one

  • 50g walnuts
  • 3 large handfuls kale
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • Zest and juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 15g vegetarian hard cheese or Parmesan (if not veggie), grated
  • Salt and pepper
  • 250g fresh gnocchi

Bring a kettle of water to the boil. Toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until they smell nutty. Leave to cool.

Pour the boiling water into a saucepan over a medium heat. Salt the water, drop in the kale.

Once wilted, lift the kale out of the water using a slotted spoon. Keep the pan of water on the heat.

Tip the kale into a bowl of cold water. Once cool, drain and squeeze out as much water as possible.

Roughly chop the walnuts. Put the kale into a small food processor along with most of the walnuts, garlic, lemon zest and juice, olive oil and most of the grated cheese and blitz to a textured pesto. Season to taste.

When the water starts boiling, drop in the gnocchi and cook according to packet instructions. Drain, saving a mugful of cooking water, then tip the gnocchi back into the pan and spoon in the pesto.

Mix together, adding a splash of the cooking water to loosen the pesto, until everything is heated through. Pile the gnocchi into a bowl, scatter over the remaining walnuts then gobble down.

Kale and walnut pesto gnocchi

Kale and walnut pesto gnocchi

Hydration highs

Staying well-hydrated is vital for optimal health, digestion, fat loss and energy.

You want to aim to drink 2-4 litres a day of water and steer away from calorie-laden drinks like white coffee, milk, juice, pop or alcohol as these can interfere with the energy deficit you’re trying to create. 

(It’s better to eat your calories and feel full than drink your calories and still feel hungry afterwards.) 

Water can also aid digestion and suppress the urge to snack and graze (often when you think you’re hungry you’re actually thirsty).

Struggling with your daily quota? Invest in a good, reusable metal water bottle which keeps your water fresh, cold and to hand.

Chicken pho

Serves one 

  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • Knob fresh ginger, sliced fine
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • ½ tsp Chinese five spice
  • 1 x 200g skinless chicken breast fillet, cut into quarters
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ red chilli
  • 1 medium carrot
  • Small handful fresh mint
  • 200g pre-cooked rice noodles
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • Juice of ½ limel Splash of fish sauce

Bring a kettle of water to the boil. Melt the coconut oil in a saucepan over a low heat. Add the sliced ginger and coriander seeds. Leave to gently toast.

Meanwhile, put the chicken stock cube into a jug, add 400ml boiling water and whisk with a fork to dissolve.

Come back to the pan, turn up the heat to medium and sprinkle in the five spice. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds then pour in the chicken stock.

Season the chicken breast pieces with salt and pepper then carefully drop them into the saucepan. Place a lid on the pan and cook for 8 minutes. While the chicken is cooking, slice the red chilli — remove the seeds if you don’t like it hot. Peel the carrot into ribbons and pick the mint leaves.

After 8 minutes the chicken should be cooked. Check by slicing into one of the pieces to make sure the meat is white all the way through. Once you’re happy, using a slotted spoon lift the chicken onto a plate.

Drop the carrot ribbons and rice noodles into the broth. Shred the cooked chicken with two forks then put it back into the pan, season with soy sauce, lime juice and fish sauce.

Place in a bowl to serve, discarding the ginger slices and coriander seeds. Scatter over mint leaves and sliced red chilli.

Chicken pho

Chicken pho

Chorizo chilaquiles

Serves one

  • 3 wheat tortillas
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus a drizzle
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ chorizo ring (110g) or two eggs for a veggie swap
  • 2 ripe medium tomatoes
  • ½ red onion
  • ½ jalapeno
  • 30g fetal 
  • Small handful coriander

Preheat the oven to 220c/fan 200c/gas 7. Using kitchen scissors, cut each tortilla into eight triangles, the same size as tortilla chips. Place on a large baking tray. 

Toss with 1 tablespoon of oil and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Spread out into a single layer, then bake for 8-10 minutes, flipping halfway through. Homemade nachos done.

Meanwhile, slice the chorizo. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium to high heat. Drizzle in a little oil, add the chorizo and fry, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until crisp.

While the chorizo is frying, roughly chop the tomatoes, red onion and jalapeno — remove the seeds if you don’t like it hot. Put everything into a small food processor, blitz to a sauce.

Come back to the chorizo. Using a slotted spoon, remove from the pan onto a plate. Pour the tomato sauce into the frying pan with the chorizo oils. Crank up the heat and bubble away for 2-3 minutes until no longer watery. Season to taste.

Pile the homemade nachos into a bowl. Pour over the warm tomato sauce. Top with the fried chorizo, then crumble over the feta and tear over some coriander. Epic.

Veggie swap: Swap the chorizo for 2 eggs, fried to your liking, placed on top of the chilaquiles.

Chorizo chilaquiles

Chorizo chilaquiles


Extracted from 30 Day Kick Start Plan by Joe Wicks (Bluebird £18.99). © 2020 Joe Wicks. 

To order a copy for £14.81 go to or call 020 3308 9193. 

Free UK delivery on orders over £15. Promotional price valid until 05/02/2021. 

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