Nutrition is 70% accountable for our successful training and healthy weight loss, so it's no wonder that "what do you eat?" always comes up in conversation.
So here's a little intro as to how I got into nutrition, my stages of obsessive healthy eating, and what is working for me now!
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
After receiving my diploma in Nutritional Therapy back in 2016, I was filled with a mixture of excitement and frustration. Excitement because I had just been given three years worth of knowledge and I couldn't wait to tell the world, and frustration because not everyone wanted to hear it! (Lesson 1 learned: just because you're passionate about it, doesn't mean that everyone else is.)
Like most people when they discover the answers to many questions, I was extremely enthusiastic about this new knowledge and wanted to make sure that I not only 'talked the talk', but 'walked the walk' too. So much so, that I became slightly obsessed and very strict about my food intake.
It's probably worth mentioning that whilst I was eating this way, I was also becoming obsessed with training and going to the gym pretty much 6-7 days a week!
My workouts back then were a lot different from how I currently train and consisted of 5k runs on the machine (very boring), 20 minutes on the rower, 10 minutes on the stepper, and so on...
Definitely not the perfect diet for cardio-based training.
As a result, I was extremely lean/slim, around (10% body fat), which resulted in amenorrhea and some seriously bad moods, as well as being an absolute nightmare to take to a restaurant. Building muscle was also an issue, as I was obviously eating into whatever gains I had made (as well as not training correctly in the first place!).
As I continued to research/further my knowledge about nutrition and experiment with what food works for me, I was also becoming familiar with 'functional' and unconventional training (blog coming soon!).
This is where I realised I needed complex carbs in my life, so I started to incorporate sweet potatoes, butternut squash, brown rice etc. into my daily meals to provide my body with that little extra energy.
Allowing myself to consume more carbs (although it took a little getting used to) was a massive relief, and the unnecessary stress that I had inflicted on myself from such restrictions had gone. As we know, stress of any kind is detrimental to mental and physical health, so in my attempt to be super healthy, I was going against what I was 'preaching' about in the first place!
WHAT I EAT NOW
Fast forward to the present, and although I am still continuously learning and adapting, I can say with confidence that what I learned three years ago, that nutritional optimisation is different for each individual and that nutrition should be a lifestyle and not a diet, still runs true.
My advice to those who are starting to get into health and fitness, or athletes who want to optimise their training, is to cut the 'crap', seek healthy alternatives to satisfy your sweet tooth (see below for some of my favourites!), and focus on nutrient-dense foods. For example, ask yourself "Is this providing my body with the nutrients it needs? Or am I just consuming 'empty' calories?''.
You'll find that switching out processed/ready-made foods and replacing them for clean whole foods leaves plenty of room for additional veggies, which due to their nutrient density and fibre, leave you feeling fuller and satisfied for longer.
Looking back, when I wasn't eating many carbs, I was hungry all the time and always looking for snacks. Now I have three solid meals a day consisting of:
Organic Meats (mostly chicken, in small amounts)
Healthy Fats (avocado, flax, nuts, coconut oil, olive oil, olives...)
Complex Carbs (sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice, butternut squash, gluten-free oats...)
Lots of Vegetables & Pre-Biotics- especially the leafy green kind and brassicas! (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, chard, courgette, asparagus, onion, garlic...)
I truly believe that a diet similar to this is the key to maintaining a healthy weight, instead of continuously trying out new fads.
I still avoid dairy, gluten and refined sugars, as they are inflammatory foods and interfere with my recovery and overall wellbeing, as well as contribute to brain fog and are usually the cause of that 3 pm dip in energy, making you reach for that pick-me-up snack.
SNACKS & TREATS
Being a creature of habit, I always make sure that I have some raw cacao (at least 70%) after lunch and I am also a big fan of kombucha which I'll have every other day.
I sometimes snack in between meals if I've trained hard that day, which usually consists of a couple of rice cakes with peanut butter. Nothing crazy, as I like to make sure that I get everything I need in my main meals. I almost always finish my day with a Turmeric Latte (see below for my favourite) with plant-based almond milk with added collagen powder for that extra creamy texture!
Berries are also my go-to snack (mainly in the summer, when I fancy them the most), as they're jam-packed with antioxidants. Some of the highest on the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale are:
Whether you eat meat or you're vegan, personally I still believe that getting your protein from whole foods within your meals should be your main priority.
Having the odd protein shake here and there is totally fine if you want to increase your intake without having to make extra meals all the time, just remember, any excess protein that isn't utilised turns to sugar, and then to fat (usually the type that loves to hang around your mid-section). So if you're on some kind of high protein diet and you're wondering why you're not losing weight, it's most likely due to the fact that you're consuming too much protein or not doing enough exercise to balance it out.
The typical amount of protein that you should aim for with each meal is around 30g (minimal) for those who train regularly.
I personally tend to have a shake in the morning if I'm training early, and I'll only ever use clean, dairy-free, sugar-free protein powders with plant-based milk. If I'm not training, I prefer to start the day with an omelette with sautéed veggies and half an avocado.
As for meat consumption, my personal views are to make sure that you're being mindful with your food and where you're buying your meat from, by getting it from a good source (organic, grass-fed, free-range, local farms/butchers), and consuming less of it.
As an athlete, I am definitely a fan of supplementation. Unfortunately, It is extremely hard to get the necessary amount of vitamins and minerals from our foods today, due to modern intensive agricultural methods which have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil.
It is also a fact that athletes require more than the RDA (so do most of the population) of vitamins and minerals due to the extensive exercise which requires more antioxidants to mop up the oxidative stress caused by working out (working out is a major form of stress on the body, even though it's positive).
Some of my favourite supplements for pre and post-workout are L-Carnitine, Antioxidant Complex, L-Glutamine, and Bovine Collagen Power to combat oxidative stress, help to repair the tissues/muscles and get nutrients back into my body (see below for my favourite brands).
As for daily supplementation, I will always take a good quality, high-dose multi-vitamin, Vitamin D for those dark winter months, and CBD for end of day relaxation and winding down for the night.
Disclaimer: I must stress that this is my personal supplementation and it doesn't mean that it will work for everyone as we all have different needs :)
If you think you could do with some extra supplementation, I would suggest seeking out advice from a Nutritional Therapist or getting your blood tests done before continuing, because too much is just as bad as not enough!
Ombar Raw Cacao
Love Chock Raw Cacao
Pana Organic Ice Cream
Vega Protein Powder
Pukka Organic Turmeric Gold Latte
Rude Health Almond Drink (for turmeric latte)
Plenish Cashew Milk (for shakes)
Cured Nutrition CBD Caps & Oil (use the code: PHASESIX for 10% off)