Following on from yesterdays post, lets talk about a topic I rarely mention, Nutrition.
I don’t like talking about nutrition, it’s not my strong point, but it’s come up in so many conversations over the last couple of weeks, I think it’s only fair I give you my considered opinion.
First off, why don’t I talk much about nutrition, after all I am a fitness coach and we’re supposed to know it all right?
I have my specialist areas of knowledge, these are the things people come to me for, things that my clients know they won’t get anywhere else. I am a conditioning coach and a Self Defence coach.
Ask me anything about getting combat ready, wether it’s for the ring, the street or deployment to a war zone and I’ll answer your questions. I’ll have you in peak condition to hump over mountains and be in shape take out a sentry when you get there, I’ll ensure that in the last few seconds of the last round in the ring, you’re the one handing out punishment, I’m the guy that can train you to put a mugger down and have enough juice to sprint to safety.
I’m not a jack of all trades, like so many of my “peers” in the fitness industry, most fitness instructors teach a lot of things to an pretty average standard and their results with the clients reflect this. I don’t, in fact I’ve been know to turn clients down because they want something I can’t deliver, I’ve no problem sending people to other coaches. So this is why I haven’t spent as much time studying nutrition as I have studying martial arts, self defence tactics, high intensity training, developing power and power endurance.
But anyway, back to the point.
It’s a simple topic that people refuse to get right.
What should we eat, when should we eat it and how much of it should we eat?
Non of these questions have absolute answers, so you can’t just hand out a diet sheet to every one and expect it to work, different people require different things depending on a variety of factors, including body type and activity levels.
But there are guidelines that if followed will allow the body to get itself into it’s most efficient state. And when the body is working efficiently, the mind will sharpen and energy levels will soar.
So what are these guidelines?
- Drink more water.
The recommendation is 2 litres every day of water, don’t count tea, coffee, juice or the water you drank while training (you did train today right?). Avoid other drinks, they’re pretty much loaded with sugars, even fruit juice is high in natural sugars. The problem with fruit juice is that during the juicing process all the fibre is taken out so there is no dampening effect on the insulin spike from the sugars. Eat fruit, don’t drink it.
- Eat more veg.
And I don’t mean veg that has been boiled into mush. Get your greens, lots of them, have as much as you want. In Ori Hoffmekler’s excellent book the Warrior Diet, he asks you to start every meal with a generous salad made up mostly of raw greens before progressing to the rest of the meal, after following his method for some time, I have to say, he’s bang on the button.
Some veg is better cooked, but leave it crunchy.
As an aside, I like to buy frozen veg in bulk. Fresh veg left sitting on the shelf gradually looses it’s nutrient value, this is why I get the veg I intend to cook from the freezer section, the raw stuff I buy fresh.
- Cut out sugar
There is probably no greater cause of health problems in today’s society than those caused by sugar. Sugar is the food equivalent of a cockroach, it has infiltrated everything, and just as you think you’ve got rid of it, a different version pops up. Look at the label on almost anything that is in a packet and you’ll see sugar, or dextrose or maltodextrin or corn syrup or fructose or some other name for what is essentially the same thing.
Sugar is the body’s preferred source of energy, but when too much is supplied the body thinks great, I’ll store this for a rainy day. A day that rarely comes to us living comfortably in the west.
Watch this video, it tells you about the hormones and storage mechanisms without all the boring and confusing science jargon:
- While we’re at it, cut out stuff that looks like sugar
That’s your starchy carbohydrates, the ones the health board food pyramid tells you to eat. The only grain your allowed to eat with abandon is porridge, the rest is junk, it’s just filler and it messes up your hormone balance. And that’s not even taking into account the fact that so many of us have adverse reactions to grains, Gluten in wheat is the most well known of these.
Gluten triggers Ceoliac disease in a small portion of our species. It’s not a disease, it’s simply an allergic reaction caused by an amino acid in gluten called Proline. Many plants cause allergic reactions, these are simply survival tactics, animals learn to avoid them, so they don’t get eaten and they flourish, think nettle stings, proline is an example of these mechanisms. It’s not as violent as say Nightshade, but Proline does inflame the intestine, prevents the absorption of various key nutrients and causes us to become malnourished and therefore weak.
So grains, an Insulin spike AND an inflamed intestine, nice!
- Follow the 80% rule
Eat until you are 80% full. It takes approximately 20 minutes for the signal from the stomach to reach the brain and say “Stop, I’m full!” That’s 20 minutes that you can still be shovelling junk down your cake hole. Finish a little early and allow dinner to settle.
- Slow Down
Chew your food. Mastication is the first stage of digestion, properly chewed food and be properly digested, therefore you get proper nutrition and be nicely satiated. Have a conversation over dinner, enjoy your food, make it an event. This also goes hand in hand with point 5.
- It’s Quality, not Quantity that counts
How much, how often. These two questions are asked all the time, and really it’s not that important unless you’re looking shave yourself and to stand on a stage in a banana hammock covered in fake tan. For the rest of us, think quality. You buy the best clothes, best runners, best TV’s that we can afford and then fill the fridge with junk, it makes no sense. Get fresh food, lots of veg, plenty of fruit and don’t buy any junk. Store the good stuff and use it al the time, only buy in biscuits and pizza’s when you’re giving yourself a treat, otherwise don’t have them around. Oscar Wilde was on point when he said “I can resist anything except temptation!” remove the temptation from the cupboards.
- Erm, So how much, how often?
In my opinion, 2-3 solids meals per day. Eat as much fruit, nuts and veg as you wish as snacks, but sit down and nosh through a good meal consisting of lean meats (I’m not a fan of vegetarianism) and a stack of veg. Meal frequency is still a hotly debated subject, but I side with Ori Hoffmekler, Bruce De Vu Mike Mahler and Bud Jefferies on the 1-3 meals per day. Other say 5-6 smaller meals, but in honesty, too much hassle. Less frequent meals allow the body to regulate it’s hormones that much more efficiently, go to www.mikemahler.com and check out some of his hormone information if you don’t believe me.
- Learn to deal with hunger
We live in an affluent society, food has never before been so abundant. I ask you, when was the last time you were really hungry? I don’t mean a little peckish, I mean genuinely, about to faint, painfully hungry? For most westerners I’ll bet the answer is never, unless it’s after a night out and your simply malnourished and dehydrated.
A light hunger does incredible things to you mind. You feel more alert, sharper, clearer, you feel like a wolf. An overload of carbs leaves you feeling woolly and sluggish, like a sheep. Which would you prefer, Sheep or Wolf? A lower carb diet will leave you hungry for a short adjustment period, pretty soon the body gets used to living of protein and fats, it naturally uses it’s own stored fats and in doing so it creates an positive hormone balance, this leaves you alert and powerful. Fuel this power with the likes of Almonds and cashews, an apple or a pear but little else and you will feel unstoppable.
- Avoid anything in a packet, or, if it has more than one ingredient
How many ingredients does a chicken breast need? How about yoghurt, or bread? You’d think it’s easy, get a chicken and cut a slice off and you have a chicken breast. Get some milk, add bacteria and there’s your yoghurt. So how come when you go o the freezer section and pick up a box of frozen chicken the list of ingredients goes on and on and on?
It’s all junk that’s been added to stop food doing what it naturally ought to do, go off. If you leave something out and it’s still good to eat after 3 or 4 days, do you really think that you’ll be able to digest that? I mean what kind of stuff do they out into a slice of bread that it lasts a week on chopping board? I’ll tell you, if it has a name that is unpronounceable with a dozen syllables and no vowels, it’s probably not meant to go in your body!
So there you go, an idiot proof guide to food.
It can summed up in a sentence:
Keep it simple stupid, or KISS
Your granny was right when she insisted on you eating your meat and greens, give her a call and get some cooking lessons.