Top 10 Nutrition Tips
Last month I was approached by someone to ask me for my top 10 bits of nutritional advice and so I thought I would write them down and share.
1. Get Plenty of Fruit & Veg
Aim for 8 portions of fruit and vegetables a day to ensure you get enough important vitamins and minerals.
2. Vary Your Carbs
Avoid having the same carbohydrate source more than once a day, as this helps to provide variety in your diet.
3. Maximise Your Iron Intake
When eating an iron rich food such as beef, shell fish, lentils, beans, spinach and broccoli, always pair it with a vitamin C rich food, such as oranges, lemons, kale, chillies, pepper or parsley, as this helps to maximise the uptake of iron by the body.
4. Prepare Balanced Meals
Try to structure meals so they are balanced. I try to stick to 1 protein source e.g chicken, egg, fish, beef, beans, lentils, cheese, yogurt or milk. One carbohydrate source e.g. rice, pasta, quinoa, oats, potatoes, barley or bread, with 3 portions of fruit or vegetables e.g. spinach, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, sweet potato, apple, banana, berries, nuts or seeds. There will always be some crossover as for example, quinoa can be a carbohydrate source, but also is high in protein. Beans, lentils and chickpeas can fit in to all three sections if you need them to.
5. Plan in Advance
Always plan your meals in advance so that you know you have all the ingredients you need, helping to avoid making rushed, unhealthy decisions when you are hungry. The same goes for food shopping. Plan in advance what you need and never do it hungry, as you will end up buying things you want to eat right now and not what you need.
6. Eat 3 Meals a Day
Stick to a routine. Always have 3 meals a day and don’t skip one, even if you aren’t particularly hungry, have something small. To keep your metabolism working efficiently and fast you need to keep supplying it with things to do. If you skip meals your body automatically switches to safety mode and starts to slow down and store energy rather than burn it.
7. When Possible, Keep it Natural
Always try to get your nutrition from natural sources rather than supplements. There are of course times when this isn’t possible. Whey protein powder is extremely handy to carry and make in to a shake post training, when you are at the gym, velodrome or not at home, but if you are training from home then milk, boiled eggs or Greek yogurt are great natural recovery protein foods. The same goes for carbohydrate energy drinks and gels. Great for longer training sessions or races, but bananas, cereal bars, rice cakes or dried fruit are just as good. If you work hard to achieve a healthy, balanced and varied diet then you should be able to provide your body with all the vitamins and minerals it needs, without having to rely on a tablet. This is far more natural and better for our bodies to process. It also means as an athlete you are less likely to expose yourself to a contaminated substance that could result in you failing a drugs test.
8. If You’re Hungry, Eat
Listen to your body and provide it with what it needs. Always carry some healthy cereal bars or snack options, so that when you do get hungry you can turn to them, rather than having to source more readily available but less healthy snacks, such as chocolate bars, crisps or biscuits. Try to avoid having these sort of snacks in the house, so that you can’t just reach for them when you feel like it, but instead turn to more healthy food like fruit, nuts or yogurt.
9. Stay Hydrated
Make sure you stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water. Remember that drinks also contain calories though, so try to avoid drinking sugary drinks regularly. If you prefer to have flavour in your water, then squash is ok. Herbal tea is a great option and now you can also get cold infused herbal tea bags, which you can drop in to a water bottle to flavour the water without the sugar and extra calories. Be careful not to get too sucked in to the healthy fruit juice and smoothie trend. Stick to 150ml portions, as they contain a lot more sugar than we realise. A good way to make fruit juice go further is to dilute it, half water, half fruit juice. If you are like me and enjoy drinking fizzy drinks, then instead of turning to sugary options. stick to fizzy water and flavour it with fresh lime, lemon or whatever takes your fancy really.
10. Have Your Cake & Eat It
Eat what makes you happy. If you particularly want chocolate, then eat it. If you want a slice of cake, then have it. Just make sure its occasionally and not regularly. You are aiming to achieve a healthy, balanced diet and for it to be balanced, there needs to be some bad stuff in there as well. Make sure you have 1-2 treats a week. Plan them in so you have something to look forward to. Never completely cut something you enjoy out of your diet, as you will start to crave it, leaving you with the potential to binge on it when you get the chance, which is not healthy.
These are 10 of the rules I try to stick to and what I would consider to be the best advice for anyone trying to achieve a healthy, balanced diet, not just an athlete. As an athlete I am aware I try to eat more protein than the average person and my overall calorie intake is much higher. This is because my overall energy expenditure is also higher. My body also requires slightly more vitamins and minerals, which is why I aim for 8-10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, but otherwise all the principles are the same. If you have any bits of advice that you swear by and would like to share, then please leave them in the comments below.
Thank you for reading and speak soon.