With the current wellness revolution showing no signs of abating, you’d be forgiven for being just a bit fed up of hearing about yet another healthy eating plan. Though January’s far behind us, the ‘eat clean’ theme du jour seems never-ending in its advice on what one should and shouldn’t be eating. You’d also be forgiven for judging this particular book by its awful cover and leaving it on the shop shelf, but I urge you to put all that aside and give this one a go. While the emphasis is on eating well, when you strip all that away, Fitness Gourmet is a collection of delicious recipes, which just happen to be good for you.
Fitness Gourmet is the debut book by nightclub-owner-turned-fitness trainer Christian Coates: the blonde-haired picture of health who founded Soulmatefood, one of those deliver-to-your-door, bespoke meal plan companies which boasts testimonials from likes of Team GB. It’s clearly written and very easy to follow; kind of a dummies guide to eating well, without being patronising or preachy, which – after a day at the office when my mind has been zapped by meetings and Excel-overdose – is most welcome. I don’t want to have to spend my Sunday making a bone broth that’ll stink the house out or blowing the budget on fresh wheatgrass, I just want something delicious to eat, that’s quick and that makes me feel good. And Fitness Gourmet provides the means to do just that with recipes made up of easily-sourced items, rather than, as Coates puts it: “special ingredients or weirdly-named foods”.
The first 80 pages of Fitness Gourmet cover the basics of nutrition, thorough sections on fats, carbohydrates, micronutrients, alcohol, a very interesting piece around water and hydration/dehydration, and grazing – plus the benefits of each, things to be mindful of and how much the body needs to function effectively. It’s clearly written and very easy to follow; kind of a dummies guide to eating well, without being patronising or preachy, which after a day at the office when my mind has been zapped by meetings and Excel-overdose, is welcome. I don’t want to have to spend my Sunday making a bone broth that’ll stink the house out or blowing the budget on fresh wheatgrass, I just want something delicious to eat, that’s quick and makes me feel good. And this book provides the means to do just that with recipes made up of easily sourced picks, rather than, as Coates puts it: “special ingredients or weirdly named foods”. So far, so sensible.
Rather than just tell you what you should be eating with a strict plan to follow or number of calories to consume on such or such day, Fitness Gourmet offers a flexible, achievable approach that strays away from the common ‘one size fits all’. It provides the tools to create your own individual ‘diet code’ with three variants to each recipe depending on whether you’re looking to Burn (lose fat/gain lean muscle), Balance (maintain current weight/eat healthily) or Build (fuel for fitness), which can be mixed and matched to adapt to your current lifestyle or needs. For those seeking more targeted guidance, there are five eating plans to aid specific goals: manage weight, keep healthy, build your body, toughen up (to prep your body for endurance ie. a triathlon), and play team sports.
There’s no need for kitchen scales; Coates provides visual aids, such as using your hands to gauge portion size, which means no matter where you are you’ve got a clear idea of how much is too much – after all it really is a bit of a faff having to weigh out multiple ingredients. If it’s going to work long term, it needs to be something you can do without over-thinking. Refreshingly, Fitness Gourmet also doesn’t encourage skipping whole food groups from your diet, quite the opposite, and there’s no long list of expensive ‘recommended supplements’, rather an emphasis on choosing good quality, locally-sourced ingredients where possible.
Most importantly, the book features plenty of enticing recipes to choose from, none of which feel at all ‘diet-y’. Each is accompanied by at least one delicious photograph, plus top tips and a summary of the benefits of a particular ingredient. Breakfast options include lychee, ginger and lemon quinoa porridge, pancakes (a variety of ways), hearty grills you’d expect to be off limits; a banana and walnut bread with Earl Grey cream, which sounds sufficiently indulgent, and bars to make in advance and eat on the go. The Snack section boasts delights such as manchego and chipotle bites, maple and bacon popcorn, and lamb koftes with beetroot tzatziki. Among the highlights from almost 40 Main Meals are chili chicken ramen, saffron-poached chicken with barberry rice and baba ganoush, and that ultimate curl-up-on-the-sofa comfort food, parmagiana di melanzane. Fitness Gourmet also has a section on Juices, Shakes & Smoothies with inviting names such as ‘glow’, ‘radiance’ and ‘upbeet’.
The flexibility around the book’s recipes means you can have your cheesecake and eat it (or Millionaire’s Shortbread – there’s a recipe for that too), but just adapt it a little. For example, a Burn version of a dish might replace rice noodles with a courgette equivalent; whereas the Build version might recommend a side of bacon. You can invite friends over for dinner without needing to fall off the healthy eating wagon, just by adding or losing an ingredient or two. For this reason, it’s a book you can keep referring back to, rather than one of those ‘transform your body in 30 days’ promises, that puts a timeframe on a regime and inevitably sees you return to old habits, rather than providing you with the knowledge and ingredients to eat well for life. So whether you live a sedentary lifestyle or are up with the lark and down to the local lido, there’s plenty in Fitness Gourmet to keep you fit and fuelled.
Published by Jacqui Small, Christian Coates’s Fitness Gourmet is available to buy online here.