2020 has begun and we are now deep into enjoying February!

The start of the year, as we know, is a great chance to start fresh, write a new script and become a better version of ourselves. But it’s important that these changes we are making are sustainable. Today we will focus on how you can be empowered to create a sustainable, healthy and enjoyable lifestyle that continues to give you a solid foundation when it comes to your performance.

When we look at our nutrition and its relation to performance, it is important that we adjust and optimise our nutrition alongside training. However, we must realise that the most important time is within the hours spent away from training. We need to give our bodies the necessary food to be able to perform at a high quality and to recover. This can be made easier when we create habitual foundations to push our success.

So we must remember, as we continue to push our training as an athlete, weekend warrior or a hobby jogger, building and maintaining a healthy body takes time, let alone a body that will be able to perform. So, how do we create healthy foundations to perform and lead a healthy life?

It is important to realise that when we aim to eat healthily it doesn’t have to be restrictive and that we should give our body the respect and variety it deserves. There are a lot of diet trends which demand restricting specific food groups, or we see supplements as the miracle purchase that will help improve our health. However, these are not what sustainable lifestyles look like for anyone.

Overall, restricting food from our bodies means that we could be at risk of limiting specific nutrients and vital energy to our body. There are, however, means to restrict food for people who have a diagnosed illness. It is best that this is lead by a registered dietitian with input from a doctor.  In general, restricting entire food groups and counting calories can be very unsustainable as we juggle work, training, and other commitments like family, affordability and ultimately time.
Remember the plate model? I would imagine you are currently nodding your head and trying to remember what it looks like. This model is sustainable and important for a healthy foundation whether you are being active or not, it covers a variety of food groups and it is easy to measure. You have one-quarter of your plate protein, one quarter of your plate carbohydrates/starchy veg and one-half of your plate vegetables.

The model can be manipulated to suit your workload and level of activity. It is important to understand that macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrate) are processed at different rates in our body, due to their unique structures. By incorporating the plate model at each meal and snack throughout your day, first, you will feel more satisfied for longer and it will also provide enough energy to be focused during your day, ready for exercise or provide the appropriate nutrients for recovery.

Of course, nutrition is only one of the pillars which play a role in wellbeing, we need to consider exercise, sleep, work, stress, income and a whole lot of other factors. The idea of energy output vs energy input is relevant, but it doesn’t consider all factors going on. Therefore, I think it should be more directed towards energy output vs nutrients input. We could restrict our calories, however, if it isn’t done correctly, the body will start putting itself under stress to help resolve the issues and then we could face injury, disordered eating and future issues with our relationship to food.

If we want to help nurture our body’s , provide the appropriate food necessary or just to grow our love for food, let’s start by getting the basics right. We don’t build a house without a frame, we don’t have a car without its body, so why do people try to build a healthy body without the needed nutrients?

Looking forward, here are three tips to help you get the most out of your 2020:

  • The plate model is your dummies guide to a perfect foundation diet. You don’t need to be restrictive with your food. You just need to be selective about what nutrients you are putting in, mindful of variety and changing up portion sizes to suit your current level of activity.

  • Unless supplements are prescribed by a health professional consider contacting a registered nutritionist or dietitian on whether that money could be spent elsewhere, like more food! Or new gym clothes as your body evolves!

  • “If music be the food of love play on”. At the end of the day, food should be enjoyed and it is a big part of bringing people together and our ability to move. You shouldn’t have to feel stressed about eating or preparing food. Get in the kitchen, add some colour, mix the flavours up, have a variety of foods on your plate. Make the healthy choice the easy choice, eat your vegetables and enjoy some carbs, protein and fat along the way.
Eliot Fenton

Eliot Fenton is a Sports Lab nutritionist who is passionate about food as fuel and food as enjoyment. He is currently completing his Master’s in dietetics. Eliot is the newest addition to the Sports Lab team who is making his presence known with his singing in the office.