Saturday, 26 January 2013

Ideas on Nutrition

Hi Guys & Girls,

I get asked a lot about my nutrition so I thought I would dedicate this post to it.

No matter what your goals are, nutrition is key.  I love the saying:
‘You are what you eat'
It is absolutely true.
Every cell in your body is made from the food that you put into it.  If you want to change that body, develop it, tweak it, improve it.  Then you have to look at the building blocks that you are giving it.

Now the first thing I want to make clear is that nutrition is very subjective, an ‘ideal’ nutritional intake will vary, often quite considerably, from person to person.
There are factors such as:
What are your goals? – Losing fat? Adding bulk? Strength? Endurance? General Health?
What is your level of activity? – Do you exercise regularly? Is your job active?
Personal Preference – What foods do you like? Do you have allergies?
What kind of budget do you have?
Do you access to a proper kitchen to regularly prepare meals?
Do you know how to cook?  Are you willing to learn?

Each of these factors is going to have an effect on both; what your ‘ideal’ nutritional intake should be and what it is.

That said, I generally work from a few nutritional ‘Rules’, things that I think are good for everyone’s health and goals regardless of varying factors.

1 – A regular intake of high quality protein from a variety of sources
Quality sources include: Lean meats, Poultry, Eggs, Fish, Nuts, Seeds & Dairy
It is also possible to obtain complete proteins by combining various veg, grains & pulses.

The body can only absorb a set amount of protein in one go so it is best to have it in at regular intervals throughout the day.

Now, the amount of protein each person needs will vary and there are a myriad of recommendations.  I don’t want to get into that debate here (but I’m happy to discuss it in the comments box below).

2 – A minimum of 5 portions of Fruit and Veg per day (with the emphasis on Vegetables)
This is where you should get most of your vitamins and minerals, they are essential if you want to digest and absorb all your other food effectively.
Without these the body simply can’t take in all the other great things you are putting into it.

Vegetables are generally preferable to fruit as they are normally less sugary.

Again variety is desirable, with dark green vegetables being King (Spinach, Broccoli, Kale).

A portion is roughly a handful.

3 – Keep well hydrated (plenty of water)
Without water your body slows down, works less efficiently and eventually stops.

Proper hydration improves concentration, athletic performance,
aids fat loss, recovery and muscle development.

Like protein, your body can only absorb so much at a time so sip regularly throughout the day.

The best way to check your hydration level is to look at your Urine, it should be clear or light yellow.

Water is best, avoid sugary drinks (including fruit juices), caffeine and alcohol.

4 – You need to eat Fat.
Your body needs fat just as much as any other nutrient.

A low fat diet will not necessarily help you lose fat and a zero fat diet will kill you!

Again, aim for good quality sources, taken regularly and in portions appropriate to you & your goals.
Quality sources include: Good cuts of Red meat, Olive (oil), Flax seed, Oily fish (fish oils), Avocados, Butter from organic grass-fed cows, Coconut oil, Nuts & Seeds, Organic Eggs, Greek yogurt (full fat varieties), Acai. There are more but these are some of the most well known and easily available.

5 - Always try and buy food in its purest form
Processed food, ready meals and fast food are never going to be as good for you as a home cooked meal made from pure, whole foods.  Now obviously this will depend on how much time you have to prepare food, your budget and your ability to prepare that food but with the right amount of planning and a few basic skills you can easily make some fantastic and nutritionally sound meals.

Outside of the nutritional ‘Rules’ outlined above the rest of what I’m going to run through are guidelines, and as such will vary quite substantially between individuals.  For your interest I will let you know what I personally aim for with each guideline but keep in mind that this is just for me, with my goals (currently, trying to build and maintaining strength while staying as lean as possible).  There are a huge number of factors that contribute to my personal nutritional intake, these will vary over time as my goals, body and knowledge change and progress.

The most important thing is to get to know your own body, know what works for you.
But remember, if you aren’t seeing the changes you want, then doing what you are currently doing isn’t working.
That doesn't mean that you scrap everything and adopt a totally new approach (I see way to many people on ridiculous, fad diets due to this thought process), just experiment with varying one or two things at a time and see what happens.


1 - Frozen Vegetables are your friend
Easy to store, prepare and cook.  You can keep them for ages without them going off and they often have more of their nutritional value intact than when you buy ‘fresh’ veg which has been shipped half way around the world and sprayed with preservatives to keep it looking nice.  If you are buying fresh, try and get locally sourced products (less travel time and therefore less deterioration).

2 – Eat quality Carbohydrates in portions suitable for your goals.
Always try and have complex carbs over simple (sugary) ones.
Great sources include: Sweet potatoes, Oats, Brown rice, Quinoa, Pulses (beans/lentils) & Wholemeal pasta. I try to limit my intake of wheat in favour of the other options listed above.

The amount of carbs you have will vary massively depending on your goals and body type, if you are unsure as to what amount you need then start with a low amount and increase if you start to notice that you are experiencing lethargy, fatigue and/or delayed recovery from exercise.

You will also need different amounts of carbs at different times of the day depending on your activity levels.

3 - Supplements are supplements, not replacements.
Your primary source of nutrients should always be actual, whole foods.  Supplements are there to fill in little gaps in your diet, not provide the building blocks.
Also, be wary of claims (especially from sports supplements), many are unsubstantiated.
Personally I take:  Cod liver oil capsules, A simple Multi-vitamin tablet, Glucosamine Sulphate (with added Chondroitin & MSM), Whey Protein shakes after exercise and sometimes Creatine.

4 – Eat small, regular meals.
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that small, regular meals throughout the day help to raise metabolism, burn fat and prevent unhealthy snacking or binge eating.  I have found this to be true for myself.

I aim to eat something roughly every 3 hours while I am awake.  Generally I opt for a good source of protein, at least one portion of fruit or veg, a small amount of quality fats and possibly some complex carbohydrates.

I could probably go on and on with guidelines and tips but I won’t.  If you have any specific questions then just drop a comment in the box.

Below is an example of an average day of meals for me.
I can’t stress enough that I am including this to show what all the above ‘Rules’ and guidelines look like when put into practice.
This is not a perfect day of eating and it shouldn’t be used as the basis for everyone.
It is specific to my diet, for my body and my goals at this particular juncture in my life.
If you find some bits useful, great, but it shouldn’t stand as the basis for your entire diet.

Meal 1 (Breakfast) – Porridge.  Made with: About 80-100g of whole oats, and semi-skimmed milk.
                                 A portion of fruit (usually blueberries – fresh or frozen)
                                 A handful of nuts (brazils and hazelnuts) or 1-2 tablespoons of peanut better
                                 1 teaspoon or ground flaxseed (or oil)

Meal 2 (Snack) – Chicken wrap.  90-100g of chicken meat in a wholemeal or mixed grain wrap.
                             With half a large avocado, chopped and a drizzle of olive oil.

Meal 3 (Lunch) – A couple of smoked mackerel fillets with an medium sized, oven (or microwave)
                            cooked sweet potato (skin on) and a portion of Spinach, about 100g.

Meal 4 (Post-workout shake) – 1 Banana
                                                 1 Scoop of chocolate Whey protein powder mixed with water or milk
                                                 If possible I blend the above with 1 sachet of frozen Acai puree,
                                                 1 teaspoon of Flaxseed oil and 50-100g of Waxy maise starch
                                                 (and maybe a squeeze of honey)

Meal 5 (Dinner) – Beef stir fry.  90-120g of quality beef steak, 100g of Broccoli,
                            1 chopped red pepper, Low sugar/salt sauce or spices for taste.
                            Served with rice (ideally brown but I have a weakness for white rice!)
Meal 6 (Snack) – If I am hungry between dinner and going to bed.
                            200-300g Greek Yogurt + 1 teaspoon ground flaxseed & possibly a small apple.

Also during the course of the day I will generally drink 1-2 cups of Green Tea and enough water to keep my urine clear or light yellow.

Apologises for the long post.  The subject of nutrition is massive and I still feel that there is a lot I have left out but hopefully this will serve as a starting point for thought, discussion and change.

If you have any questions or comments then please write them below and I will answer.

Train hard, live happy

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