Here at Real Good Fitness we like to take a holistic approach to health and fitness, including nutrition. Whether you are looking to lose weight, gain muscle or just improve your overall health and wellness, eating well to fuel your body is crucial.
With all sorts of fancy diets, over-complicated information and advanced theories, the world of nutrition can be a minefield. The aim of the next 6 blog posts is to try and simplify that minefield, at least a little bit. We are not trained nutritionists, so this is mainly based on our knowledge and experience gained elsewhere. If you wish to know more then feel free to ask us of contacts we know who have more in-depth knowledge or seek professional medical advice.
The main bit of advice we can give you is to find what works best for you! Over the next few blog posts we aim to provide you with the tools and knowledge. But at the end of the day, it’s up to you to figure out how these things fit best into your life!
Pyramid of importance
Here is our pyramid of importance. Much like our exercise classes, we want to really look at perfecting the foundations before moving up the pyramid.
We may be teaching you how to suck eggs with this first element; however, the foundations of nutrition are often where most people get complacent. They are also where small adjustments can have the most significant effect.
You’re probably well aware that around 70% of the human body is made up of water, so it is obviously vital for us to stay hydrated. Water is to your body what oil is to a car – it’s the body’s lubricant. It is essential for cellular processes such as digestion and eliminating whatever is not good for the body; may that be excess fat or toxins produced during metabolism, or lactic acid produced from a workout.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of water can be worked out as follows: 0.03 x body weight (kg) = minimum water consumption per day (Litres) E.g. 0.03 x 70kg = 2.1L
However, this is a bare minimum, as you go about your day: exercising, eating, cleaning the house etc. all cause us to use more water. An easy way to tell if you are drinking enough is to use the NHS pee chart.
If you are someone who knows they need to drink more water, here are some tips and habits to pick up to help you towards destination hydration;
- Drink when you wake up/ go to bed / brush your teeth. The easiest way to build a habit is to add it on to an already existing routine. Hopefully, you are doing at least one of these a day so try adding a glass of water along with it!
- Setting yourself goals of how much water to drink by certain times in the day, e.g. 500ml by 10 am, 750ml by 12 pm, 1 Litre by 2 pm etc. Set alarms on your phone and record what you’re drinking, if you haven’t hit your goal, then you know what to do….. Neck it.
- Drinking little and often is better for your body. Try to associate your new drinking habit with an action you do regularly throughout the day, e.g. snacking, joining a zoom meeting, checking your phone (you could even try changing your screensaver to something that will remind you, maybe a picture of a waterfall).
Nutritionally Dense Food
This can mean a lot of different things to different people, but to us, at RGF, we think about this as choosing to fuel your body in the right way. That means picking more natural foods and better quality foods, especially trying to reduce the number of preservatives you consume.
We don’t like the negative connotation of having ‘bad foods’, no food is necessarily a bad food but you may be able to fuel your body more efficiently by taking note and implementing some of the following habits.
- Swapping sugary snacks for foods high in more naturally occurring sugars, e.g. switching chocolate for dates, bananas or apples; biscuits for rice cakes etc.
- Swapping out high sodium snacks such as potato crisps or corn crisps for popcorn or vegetable/legume crisps.
- Swapping out processed foods such as ready meals, processed meats, sausage rolls, fast food etc. fresh ingredients and vegan options.
- Meal prepping in advance will often help to reduce the need for fast food or quick fixes.
- Look at the food labels to educate yourself on what is in food.
Fibre is found in all plant-based foods. Our bodies are unable to digest these parts of the food, however, the bacteria in our guts feed and thrive off them, which helps us to then absorb the digestible parts much easier.
There are many health benefits from a high fibre diet. First and foremost fibre helps to ‘feed’ the good bacteria that lines the gut. This bacteria helps the body perform some functions it is not able to do on its own. Another great benefit of fibre is that it actually helps you lose weight. Foods that are high in fibre tend to fill you up for longer whilst simultaneously preventing your body from absorbing some of the calories in the foods you eat.
The RDA of fibre for the average adult is 30g per day, however, most adults only average about 18g. Increasing your fibre intake is a lot easier than you’d imagine.
- As we’ve already stated, plant-based foods are the only source of fibre so adding these foods to your diet is paramount. This can be as simple as adding beans, peas and lentils to your meals (chillis, curries, casseroles, stir-frys etc.), if you’re feeling particularly brave you can replace meat completely with these sources of fibre and protein.
- Another easy option is choosing whole-grain foods over the more processed white starches (such as pasta, rice, bread). Other grains such as bulgur wheat, pearl barley, quinoa etc. or vegetable replacements such as cauliflower rice, soybean spaghetti, courgetti etc. also bulk up your meals as rice/pasta replacements.
- Adding extra veg to bulk up your meal rather than going for more rice/pasta/potatoes will help fill you up without the extra calories.
- Snacking on nuts or fruit rather than processed snacks.
- Supplementing nuts or seeds into a meal/smoothie can often bring not only more fibre but some added texture which tends to make meals more enjoyable.
Having a wide range of colourful foods in our diet can offer a good mixture of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Our bodies crave these as the different organs and systems e.g. immune, nervous, endocrine (hormones), circulatory etc. require them to operate properly. A lack of these can lead to inflammation and poor functioning throughout the body. However, a good balance will lead to optimal performance and a feeling of vitality.
Try adding extra berries into smoothies, experiment with different fruits and vegetables, eat exotic meals, and always feel free to take that second portion of vegetables!
A vibrant plate can really make a home-cooked dish more appealing. Try to eat a rainbow with every meal!
Rest and digest
The world we live in keeps us on high alert, in high-stress environments which often cause anxieties and excess stress. Being exposed to this in small doses is a good thing, but it is essential for our bodies that we balance this out and give ourselves the time to relax.
Our body’s natural defence system is to go into ‘fight or flight’ (sympathetic nervous system). If we don’t move out of that system, we cannot ‘rest and digest’ (parasympathetic nervous system) properly. This can impact how our bodies react to the foods we put in it and how much of that food we actually absorb. This is why it is important for us to get enough sleep (7-8 hours), sit down and eat mindfully, prepare our meals and just chill out a little.
Each of these foundational elements are relatively easy to implement, especially when you focus on small steps and don’t overwhelm yourself. Try executing one of these strategies at a time and focusing on it for 3 weeks before adding in the next one. If you can attach these to already existing habits whilst planning ahead, you really prepare yourself for success.