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The Quackery of Diets

NUTRITION (the right hand wall)

In today's western world there is way too much quackery selling dietary hacks. Unless diagnosed with a condition that forces a controlled diet you need not follow 'a diet'. Diet is simply a name. Like fuel is for powering transport - there is unleaded, diesel, gas, rocket fuel! Be healthy. Choose a healthy diet.

The aim here is to illustrate how simple it is to recognise what is natural and good for you and what isn't. A healthy diet is broad and individual. This is the only diet we promote.

Amount to Eat and Drink

To keep the amount of food and drink we consume simple and measurable, think about calorie balance. If you consume more calories than you burn, you store fat and over time will normally gain weight.

Likewise, if you burn off more calories than you consume, you will loose fat. Over time you could also loose muscle and strength.

What to Eat to and Drink

Choosing food and drink which is close to source (e.g. hasn’t travelled or changed much from the original form) and minimising ones that are not, will increase the quality of the calories ingested. Fresher foods have less time to break down and contain more goodness. You could compartmentalise the difference between food that is better for the environment and food that is healthier for humans. However, we try not to. For us in the UK a salmon from Scotland is healthier than a salmon from China. And far healthier for our ocean and planet too. Our thinking is, overall, its the same thing.

A balance of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals is vitally important for all healthy humans, let alone athletes. Recognising the macronutrients that make up food and drink makes keeping a balanced diet more achievable. For example, a plate consisting of colourful vegetables, leaves, some lean meat or oily fish and rice could be recognised as a good balanced mix of macronutrients. In the first world, we are lucky enough to have plenty of choice. We can afford to enjoy food and drink and make informed choices. Once you have confirmed the nutrients on your plate are healthy, you can consider the balance of macronutrients by compartmentalising the fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals with certain food. for example, the colourful veg is known to be a good source of vitamins and minerals, the oily fish or lean meat is a good source of protein and fat and the rice is good carbohydrate.

Being Realistic

There will be times when a sugary snack like ice-cream, fast food, a beer or a few glasses of wine is desirable. For a healthy diet this would be classed as excessing. A little bit might be good for the diet but the little is usually too little so we like have a big bit (A few glasses of wine instead of that one small glass that could be a benefit for example). It is okay to have an unhealthy treat normally consisting of lots of calories and not much goodness.

Aiming for a healthy diet but sometimes excessing is simply realistic. Food and drink should be enjoyed. Excess is okay. Excessively excessing isn’t.

In context, a bottle of wine or an ice cream desert every day IS NOT HEALTHY. Nor is just one of each, once. But in the grand scheme of things, if you are healthy everyday, to excess on occasion, it won't do too much harm, and you might live to enjoy that treat.

Nutrition and timing

By adjusting the timing of ingestion it is possible to better meet the demands the body is faced with and can add value to the diet. Eating carbohydrate during training will be good fuel (dates, oats, bananas for example). Gels during workouts and races are proven to work, really well.

Higher protein after training will help recovery (eggs, milk, cheese are a few). Carbohydrate generally helps other macronutrients to absorb so egg on toast (egg for protein and toast for carbohydrate) post-workout could be better than just egg. Healthy fats will line the belly and increase the feeling of fullness. Some vitamins and minerals require dietary fat to absorb into the body so leafy greens and a mix of vegetables with a a healthy fat food could be a great part of a healthy diet. Likewise, other vitamins and minerals require water to absorb so maintaining hydration throughout the day is more than just thirst. Its bone health and equilibrium of the body systems.

On a philosophical note: gels come in one-use, foil, plastic pouches. These things are concentrated sugar. No good for teeth. And no good for our planet. Yep, gels work. Thinking past gels could lead to better all round health. Edgy huh!?


UK Anti Doping (UKAD) has a lot of information giving reason to not supplement. Supplements, of course, are processed and far from natural form regardless of how amazing the label makes them out to be. It is not an environmentally friendly way to eat or drink. As a coach I am here to inform, not tell. Some people must supplement. I would question the expert who prescribes the supplementing and never self diagnose. I would always check on informedsport to make sure the supplement is batch tested and has no chance of containing a banned substance. If supplementation is necessary be informed by a qualified dietitian (who I could refer you too in this case). Otherwise, if you need more B12, eat a salmon.

The beautiful part of informed diet and nutrition is we can use a healthy diet to increase health and performance. Food and drink can be enjoyed. Supplements should not be necessary.

Nutrition: keep it simple, keep it clean.


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