What is Recovery & How much you need?

28313224_416059642151352_1755634292_nI spend a lot of the time in my posts & blogs talking about recovery, but somebody asked me recently – what exactly is recovery? What do you mean by that?

Training sessions don’t actually make you any fitter – you get fitter recovering from the training sessions. Your body makes different changes & adaptions to the training that means you can go harder next time.

So in essence, I suppose I’m saying that sitting at home watching junk TV is actually good for you.. don’t tell the kids!

But there are a variety of different things that affect recovery and many different ways to recover! So here’s a few things to think about.

How much recovery do you need?

28312438_416059628818020_177032829_oRecovery comes in many different forms and different coaches/athletes have very different outlooks on recovery. I know some high end athletes that will take two days a week completely off, whereas last month I did a 5 week block without a single day off. This doesn’t mean I didn’t have any recovery, which I’ll explain later in the blog.

Well unfortunately I don’t have a very specific answer for you there. This is going to vary from person to person – but recovery is going to help you not get injured or ill. Keeping you consistent and ready to go for longer. You’re going to have to listen to your body, and if you’re tired – REST. It’s very easy to get swept up in a busy life style and not have time for training, this is ok! Some days you can’t make it to the gym, or get out for a run or make the class. If you force yourself to do it, the likelihood is you’ll be under recovered & cause more harm than good.

I could go through my calendar and tell you the days I’m going to be most susceptible to illness/injury. When the mileage is high, we’re in the middle of a big block & there’s no room for error. I have to make sure I’m sleeping well, eating well & not spending excess time on my feet. Why? Because I’m made of glass and love to train. If you’ve had a very heavy few days at work, that’s going to impact your exercise routine, so make sure you’re giving yourself some down time!

What Affects Recovery?

There are many things that affect the way in which your body recovers, three of the most important ones are:
Sleep
Diet
Stress

I listed sleep for as that is the obvious one. It’s not a secret that life becomes a bit of a drag if you’re not sleeping very well. When you’re asleep all the little workers inside your body spring to life and get to work. Fixing any issues you have and making sure you’re in tip top shape for the next morning. It’s one of the most basic lessons you’ll have learned (all the way back) in primary school. The optimum amount of sleep for an adult is 8-10 hours. If you’re putting your body through hard training, you’re going to need to make sure you’re getting sufficient sleep for your body to repair itself, otherwise you have a high risk of making yourself ill.

Pork pie - proper recovery...

Pork pie – proper recovery…

28308498_416059608818022_669028390_n I hate the word diet, there are so many things wrong with what we associate with the term. By definition a ‘diet’ is in some form of radical nutrition plan in which you neglect a certain element of food. Your body begins to crave it because we’re built to run on a balance of all these things & then you’ll fight it off for 4-10 weeks before caving, either because it’s made you ill, injured or mentally unhealthy. You’ll then proceed to binge on the substance you were neglecting whether it was fat, sugar, carbohydrate, and feel very guilty, coming full circle back to the start. I’ve been there, you’ve probably been there, I see it all the time, but maybe we’ll tackle that in another blog.

Monitoring what you put into your body is essential for recovery, but if you’re dieting, chances are you’re doing it wrong. Your body needs sugars & fast acting carbs to exercise & recover. Fact. One of the best energy sources available to our bodies is fat, so you also need that. And protein a long with a healthy mix of micro-nutrients from fresh fruit & veg has a huge impact on the way in which you recover. If you’re taking a form of medication this can impact your recovery, as can alcohol or things you’re drinking. Supplements can be a great quick fix, but they can’t replace meals! Beginning to think about what you intake is important. Give your body the best chance!

 

My favourite meal after a heavy session is actually spinach & broccoli soup, with some chicken, a wholewheat bread roll and a little bit of sugar in some form. Why? Because it’s all fresh and I’m replenishing all the stores I’ve used in training. If you want proof that diet has a huge impact on recovery all you have to do is go for a big night out followed by some greasy chips/kebab. You’ll feel less than ideal in the morning!

28278458_416059602151356_476586735_o

Me "recovering"

Me “recovering”

I listed stress last because this is the most complex and often the first one to be overlooked. There are a whole variety of forms of stress. Training puts a lot of stress on your body and mind, if you add stress from work, an argument with your partner, needing to do the shopping, the list goes on, this isn’t going to do you any good. Life is a busy place! But that’s ok. If you let all these stressed pile up on you, they’re going to have a big impact on the way you recover. If you’re building up the training quite quickly, that will add a lot of stress to your body, so make sure you’re ready for that! When I was working as a full time architect in Bristol, I knew if we were coming up to a big deadline, working flat out, my training was going to suffer. But realizing that, doing what you can to keep yourself happy and not overloading the stress helps a lot. It keeps you in a good place. By trying to keep physical stress + mental stress constant (and low), you’ll be able to recovery much better.

 

 

 

How do I recover?

My cat stretching & rolling...

My cat stretching & rolling…

Air relax recovery compression boots.

Air relax recovery compression boots.

Well you could do absolutely nothing. Watch some tv, put your feet up, eat well & replenish the good calories that you lost training. But you can also recovery actively. So for me I know I can do a gentle jog or bike of up to an hour, and this will allow my body to recover enough to feel fresh the next day. You could go for a gentle walk to move your legs, fill the muscles with blood but not do any work. You could acquire some compression boots, these help to flush any toxins out of the legs while you relax. Stretching and rolling is a great way to loosen off the muscles and keep them supple and ready for the next session. An ice bath can be added to the list. Anything that doesn’t involve working hard, and does involve letting your body rest.

You have to balance the amount of training you’re doing, with what life is throwing at you. This will determine the amount of recovery you need from day to day.

Hopefully my ramblings will help to keep you on good form as you continue to build up your training, and if you have any questions feel free to get in touch!

The Paleo Diet – Why to Try

Dieting.

A concept I for one have certainly struggled with this winter. As we move into summer and the weight starts to come off, I’ve pulled it together… just about?

560152_470422766350898_1737244872_n.jpg

Me just before my summer diet.

But why is a good diet so important?

Well for a start, you can’t run a petrol car on diesel.

You wouldn’t choose start a fire with damp wood.

So why try and fuel your body with less than adequate nutrition?

And yes, it’s no secret that I’m a big advocate of a ‘baked good’ here and there. I mean, did a cinnamon swirl really ever kill anybody? Can a vanilla cupcake ruin your life?

17859152_288570438233607_8481741_o


Probably not. But moderation is the key as we all know.

So after a meeting with a nutritionist I know quite well, we formulated a couple of options for my diet to move out of winter and into the summer, with the goal of keeping energy levels high and weight low.

A lot of you know that I struggle with IBS. For those of you that don’t know, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), is an irritation inside the digestive system, caused by anything from stress to gluten. And in my case, it gives me unbearable stomach cramps limiting my movement. Generally caused by an overdose of Oil, Gluten, Lactose or sugary foods. In recent months we (me and head chef Momma Schofield) have managed to keep it under control by keeping oily food down, and minimising gluten in my diet.

Now I generally sit around 83kg, and I only have to look at a chocolate bar to put 1kg on.

But that’s certainly no excuse.

So to get to 79kg there was work to be done.

Many athletes are the same, you work so hard for so many hours a week. You feel like you’ve really earned that dairy milk. I mean, a little dairy milk can’t harm right? We only bought a 500g bar….

17858918_288570498233601_1695078840_o.jpg

Some paleo treats whipped up for between sessions

But it’s a trap, meaning that many athletes remain at a constant weight, treating themselves far more than they realise. A dangerous game.

Me and the dietitian decided that the best solution while we had the time in the off season was to try the Paleo diet.

The what?

Yes, most people think the same.

I was familiar with the paleo diet as my old rowing coach Tony Larkman was a big advocate.

The paleo diet is a healthy derivative of the Atkins diet. It works to remove highly processed foods, refined sugars and carbs as well as trans fats.

Essentially, no carbohydrate, no dairy, no alcohol.

The latter being an easy one for me.

17887270_288570584900259_2059523838_o

Fish & Vegetables. The most basic paleo meal.

So what’s the theory behind this diet?

The idea is that similar to the cavemen, our body has to break down fat for fuel. This makes the body do more work to process food and help burn through the fat stores. High volumes of vitamins and minerals keep the body healthy, with fat becoming the primary energy source. This removes all the sugary foods & carbs that cause so many people in modern society to gain weight.

Yes that’s right.

It’s not fatty foods getting you, it’s the pasta and chocolate bars.

Not at the same time I hope.

A lot of people fall down on the paleo diet because they forget to replace the carbohydrates with fat.

Your body needs fuel to function.

17887564_288570548233596_1180817032_o

Without the potatos this would count!

If you cut carbs & turn to lean meat and vegetables.

It’s going to hit you hard.

Very hard.

So after trying the paleo diet for 6-8 weeks, and losing a substantial amount of weight, I managed to get very ill, and proceed to put it all back on again. My body adapted to the diet quicker than normal due to my high volume training & racing programme.

There’s only so long your body can burn carbs for before it uses the fat stores. So my system was already a step ahead. I had to occasionally cheat to include a bit of full fat Greek yoghurt or some peanut butter. But I was generally rather strict.

Would I recommend this diet?

Yes, yes I would.

And here’s why:

Despite the increase in oil and fat disagreeing with my ibs, the increase in vitamins and minerals really helped my body stay fresh and recover. The added micronutrients go a long way! I learned a huge amount about the composition of meals, different recipes, healthy snacks and a great breakfast recipe.

17837851_288570531566931_1484765700_o

Although I’m not paleo now I’ll still eat paleo meals 50% of the time as they’re healthy, fresh and fast. I didn’t think I’d be sitting down with a fish salad and a smile on my face.

Removing carbs allows you to make meals work without them. So adding enough clean carbs to recover becomes a very easy job!

In my opinion the best team in the world to have nutrition executed is the cycling team: Team Sky. The sports scientists they have working around the clock over there are phenomenal. Between them and british cycling they’ve cracked training and nutrition down to the tiniest percentage gain. And do they eat carbs? Unfortunately for all you paleo lovers out there, they do. So in the long run it must be better.

However if I can do 30 hours training a week without carbs. Then you can do it too! If you’re looking to lose weight and find a diet that can work, is sustainable and will teach you an incredible amount about your bodys needs and the way to eat easy, clean and fast, the Paleo diet is the one.

You’ll be very tired for a week or two while the body adjusts, but I promise you’ll feel fresh and healthy afterward.

Just back yourself!

Doing a Triathlon – 5 top tips from novice to beginner

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is:

“I’ve just signed up for my first triathlon, any tips?”
or
“Jack, I’m doing a triathlon, help”

So below I’ve compiled my top 5 tips for any new starter.

Whether you’re doing an ironman or a sprint distance, I’m sure these will help you in your quest.

I’m by no means an expert myself, having only started in the sport a little over two years ago, I’m still very much a novice. Learning a whole set of new tricks race to race, but I’m slowly getting there. So here’s my best advice for you all to complete that new years resolution.

1. Get the right gear.

img_4938

Now this is a very important one. No i’m not talking about spraying £5k+ at a bike, or £150 on running shoes that don’t fit your feet properly, or getting so much swim gear you make Michael Phelps look ill-prepared.
I’m talking about getting a solid bike, that fits. Go to a shop, chat to the workers. Chat to your friends that cycle. Anyone that knows anything about cycling, they’ll be able to help you buy a steady bike, that gets you from A to B in a solid time.

Yes, some bikes are faster than others.
And yes, some are a lot more expensive, but really, unless you’re attacking top end times, it doesn’t make a world of difference.

 

Capture
I’ve got a £350 Pinnacle Dolomite 1, Evans Cycles bottom of the range bike. And I can keep up with almost any chaingang on it, it really goes!
Your legs are worth more than any bike can buy.

Now once you’ve got your bike, get it measured and fitted, this will make sure you’re comfortable and not setting yourself up from a fail from the get go.

Cycling or padded shorts are a very helpful purchase, you only need to spend £20/30 to save your behind from getting very sore! I don’t mean super tight lycra, any mountain bike shorts will do the trick.

(Heathen, sorry roadies!!!)

The second most important thing is running shoes. Again, go to a running shop, get on a treadmill and get a good pair that fit your running style. They’re there to help you, it’s their job, their lifestyle, they know what’s what.

Jack-shoot-2016-87
This is literally one of the best bits of advice anyone can give you. Running is where you will pick up all of your injuries.
Trust me, you’re chatting to the injury veteran.

img_1019
In my triathlon career I’ve spent more time on the bench and in the phsyio than running, so these are a fantastic investment. A good pair of socks will also go a long way to keep the blisters at bay.

Then get yourself a comfortable pair of goggles, and you’re ready to take on the world!

Stay warm through winter, don’t over dress through summer and you’ll be sure to have a smile on your face come race day.

 

 
2. Don’t get injured.

Now this sounds trivial. Duhhhh. Don’t get injured, how hard can it be?!

img_1099-1
Well, it’s tricker than you think. There are a few simple ways to keep the injuries down and the training up.
Firstly, don’t do too much too soon. I know you’ll think you’re superman now you’ve put down the beers for electrolyte drinks. But don’t let yourself get carried away.
Listen to your body, and take it one step at a time. Don’t run before you can walk, so to speak.
Next, make sure you stretch before or after training. This helps keep your muscles loose and reduces the likelihood of injury.
And lastly, if it hurts, stop.

The extra 3k is never worth 4 weeks off.

After all, recovery is 50% of training, if you don’t recover, you don’t get faster!

 

 

3. Play to your strengths.

This is one of the most common mistakes in triathlon. Most people start triathlon because they are strong in one of the disciplines but wanna branch out and try something new.
But don’t neglect that discipline.
If I use myself as an example, most people will know that I’m a cyclist, that’s what I do.

Jack-shoot-2016-140

And yes, I’m focussing very hard on my swim and run at the moment, to try and catch up.

BUT.

That doesn’t mean I don’t cycle. Keeping my cycling legs on top form gives me edge in that part of the race, giving me a bit more space to breathe in the other two. If you’re good at it, use it.
Also that makes you more likely to enjoy it, so do what you enjoy!! It’ll help, I promise.

 

 

4. Practice racing.

This is one you read in almost any internet post about starting triathlon. Don’t try anything new on race day, it could ruin your race!
From equipment, to nutrition to pacing. If you’ve not practiced it, don’t try it.

When you get to race day, you want it to be monotonous. Enter auto-pilot and enjoy the day. Soak in the atmosphere.

Not spend your race worrying about what’s gonna happen next!

Jack-shoot-2016-188

Train with the right nutrition, walk through your transitions and make sure you cover every eventuality.

Especially how to fix a puncture!

Nobody wants to end a race over something trivial that could have been covered at home the week before.

 

5. Eat your greens.

Now this will make a lot of you laugh.

Eat your greens?

You serious?

1317_emoji_iphone_thinking_face

Yes, yes i’m very serious.

Everyone rages on about protein shakes, carbs, high calories. Arguably you don’t need any of these.

Yes, recover and fuel yourself properly.

Yes, take food on your rides, actual food, not greens.

But the micro-nutrients vegetables offer you can do things for your muscles that you never even imagined. Spinach, pineapple, cherry juice, beetroot the list goes on

Ok, ok, I know they’re not green.

Clever cloggs.

But the point still stands, fruit and veg will make you feel fresh and clean, you’ll know when you’ve tried it. Not stodgy like the morning after a takeaway. You won’t regret it, and it’s guilt free calories, the unrefined sugars will make you struggle to put weight on!

There are obviously plenty of other things to consider when starting a triathlon. But if you keep yourself healthy & recovered through your new programme. As well as happy and fuelled, I’m sure you’ll do well.

I look forward to racing some of you this year.

I promise you’ll enjoy it, although your legs might not!!!

Jack-shoot-2016-46

The Rest Day Conundrum

Rest day. Just the thought of it is enough to get any athlete excited.
A day of doing nothing, no training anyway, replenishing the nutrient stores, doing the general admin from the week and making sure you’re fresh for the next block of training.

But do we really need a rest day? Is it just me that gets bored of not being able to train for a whole day once a week?!

Jan Frodeno the current ironman world champion has said that he can take up to three days at a time off training just to make sure he is ready to get every session done at 100%. Although GB rowing coach Dan Harris gives his athletes a morning off once a month, and he’s produced some of the biggest ergos in the under 23 rowing squad!

Had to be careful of the typo there 😉

So what really is the benefit of a rest day? And do we really need one every week.

Well first things first, any good coach will tell you that you need to listen to your body. If you’re overly run down, picking up too many niggles or getting ill. You need to stop, take a rest, get some sleep, get some food in and come back in a couple of days time.
And we all know it’s a fine line between form and failure, many athletes can be injured or ill just after peak as their bodies are pushed right to the limits, working harder than they ever have before.


And yes, I’m also well aware that you don’t get fitter from training, you get fitter from recovering. Recovering well is the key to any athletes success, as much of it happens behind the scenes as it does in the session. Prehab and rehab, fuelling and resting. All major parts of the process.

But if you’re eating well, getting 8-10 hours of sleep a night, and all that’s really making you take a rest day is a little bit of fatigue in the legs, then why not crack on?

 

Some dinner time healthies

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sure, do a lighter session or two once a week, cut back the intensity or the mileage, get some active recovery in. But a rest day doesn’t necessarily have to mean you completely take the day off, there are still gains to be had! A rest day once every two weeks can be just as effective, pushing 100% out of every session for 12-14 solid days can really take it out of you, although testing the physical and mental ability is only going to make you come back stronger, fitter, better.

Everyone is different and each athlete is going to have something that works that may not work for everyone else. Listening to your body is key, but don’t miss a days training just because the bloke in the office wants you to be lazy and stop him feeling guilty!

The Value of Sport

Sport, what a fantastic concept.

A group of people getting together to have fun, make friends, and push each other in a supportive, like-minded environment.


For many people sport and exercise are a massive part of the weekly ritual. Forgetting about the busy schedule and having some fun for an hour or 2 a week have been proven time of time again to be beneficial.

Even since the time of the greeks philosophers such as Plato have stressed the value of exercise, healthy body healthy mind right. And making a few friends in the process, win win!


But what really is the value of sport?

£3 a week for a single class?
£7.50 a week for the gym?
£20 for cheap shorts & a gym top
£40 for a race entry?
£70 for running shoes?
£100 a year for a membership to an association?
£250 for a wetsuit?
£400 for a long race?
£2000 for a bike?
£5000 for a bike?


When does it end? Granted these are triathlon related costs, but rowing would cost me £300/400 a year comfortably before kit, and many are associated with high level sport, but even my parents have £400 bikes and regularly spend money on badminton courts, rackets, shuttlecocks, general equipment to be used with friends.
And it all stacks up. An average cost of almost £1000 a year for cycling,ci know people that could eat for quest with that. It’s no surprise that British sport estimate it would cost £2.7 billion a year to pay the volunteers that aid sport throughout the UK.

How do people afford it? Where does the money come from? Having just paid £700 to fly to Oklahoma for World Championships, £400 for Europeans and another £400 on the way for long distance Europeans in July, the money just seems to be none stop. And if you’re like most people my age, already in debt of over £30,000 to the government, these costs are crippling.


Ironman is reeling in £450 for each entrant to a race, £225 for halves. With consistent fields of over 2,000 participants, and run by volunteers we’re looking at almost £1,000,000 for subsidised nutrition, the winners purse, trophies and course related assistance. Doesn’t strike me as costing almost 1 million? With a field of 2,500 like Nice we’re comfortably over that margin.

Plus the bike and kit companies making an average of comfortably £2000 per competitor, yearly with the amount of gear floating around.

So what really is the value of sport?

The psychological and physiological benefits of weekly sport for 3 hours a week can be monumental. Taken from 2012 statistics, sports admissions, leisure class fees and equipment hire cost the average household £6.70 per week. Coming out at just shy of £350 a year. A small price to pay to have fun with your friends some might say? In comparison to rent, a car, food, it almost seems negligible. A small price to pay.

However it’s no secret that high level sportsman can be required to pay up to £500 for race entries regularly. And training races, for example marathons and half marathons aren’t exactly cheap at £40 a pop.

And is there an alternative? Probably not, sport will never be free, materials used will always cost money, things break, people get injured and need assistance, and I can’t propose any form of alternative. Although is it worth the thousands we spend a year, working hard to fund races we spend the rest of our lives working for. Lining the pockets of the organisers and staff involved. For the 4 hours Bath half is on for, it generates a turnover of roughly £600,000. And it’s not even a big race!


For young and upcoming athletes without grants, scholarships or sponsors costs can be up to £10,000 a year for travel, races, accommodation, kit. And parents/guardians are expecting to come up with this sum of money to support their children. Everyone knows every parents hates disappointing their child, and should a parent ever feel responsible for hindering or limiting their children’s sporting promise?

Let’s hope the sports and grant system holds strong!

Being Healthy – an athletes advice

Weight loss, a healthy diet, a trim waist. One of the most common objectives for people in modern society.

Constantly on and off diet plans, struggling to find one that works, missing the treats you once had so much you just think what’s the point?

Believe it or not I can absolute relate. Having joined a gym and put on 24kg preceding rowing, before losing 16 for triathlon, I’ve learned a thing or two. So here are my most basic tips and tricks for a good diet and weight loss!

For an effective diet you’ll need the following 3 things:

  1. Patience
  2. Self Discipline
  3. Belief

Based on these 3 things, a very effective diet can be created. Weight loss won’t happen over night, or 2/3 days, or a week. But over a period of 2/3 weeks, visible weight loss can be achieved. How? you might ask, you’ve tried everything. Well, patience, self-discipline and belief.

So to lose weight calories in has to be smaller than calories out, you already knew that and it’s not as easy as it sounds right! So for a start, stop weighing yourself every day. Weight loss is carried out on a daily basis, however it should be measured weekly or fortnightly. Pick a day, probably rest day or the day after and jump on the scales! Otherwise, don’t worry about it. Weight fluctuates so much from day to day with food, water retention, sleep, exercise, it’ll only stress you out if you keep checking. Be patient, follow your diet plan and the results will come I promise!

Second of all, don’t completely cut yourself off from nice food. Complete isolation doesn’t work. After 4 months off running with injury, I’m not going to be able to run a marathon tomorrow. Trying to jump head first into the worlds most strict diet isn’t going to work. Treat yourself but be careful with your treats, pick a day once or twice a week that you’re allowed them treats so you don’t feel guilty. Plan to break the rules so that it’s under control, this can be best used if it is after a long session of exercise and the treats feel earned.

  Self discipline. This is the tricky one, when your body is running heavy deficits it can be hard to turn down treats. But if you replace chocolate, sugar, crisps, with something more healthy like salad, pickles or nuts. Again don’t over do it because any of these in abundance can be just as bad for you.

Alcohol. Oh it’s the devil! We love a drink, love being sociable, our lives can seem to evolve around it.

Alcohol is the downfall of most people, the calories contained in alcohol is astronomical, replacing the alcohol with a soft drink can really help this weight loss goal. I know drinking is sociable but you can learn to have just as much of a good time sober. Try a dry month for charity and you’ll find at the end of the month your inclination to alcohol is much lower.

The next is what to eat?! Cheap, healthy meals are hard to create. And finding meals tailored to your needs can be a tricky one and breakfast is always the hardest! Shopping weekly or fortnightly is a sure fire way to keep costs down and make it much easier to avoid unhealthy snacking.

I tend to find avoiding bread and cereals for breakfast is the best start to the day. Well how do you do that you might ask?! Low fat Greek yoghurt is a great way to start. Oats, raisins, nuts and honey are just a few ways to make this meal slightly more exciting! Porridge, fresh fruit or a smoothie are other excellent starts.

A snack to get you to lunch isn’t out of the question on a diet! A small healthy snack to boost metabolism would be ideal here. Graze boxes offer some great ideas here. Or low calorie breakfast bars too! Even make your own flapjack/granola to get you through the week.

What happens next in the day varies from person to person. If you’ve got a heavy afternoon lined you might need a big meal to get you through, leaving a lower calorie meal for dinner. Alternatively a light bite at lunch before a big dinner can also work!

The trick is to eat a regular healthy volume of low calorie food, rich in nutrients. Soup, salad or an omelette are a great way to achieve this. A big enough meal to satisfy your stomach without the guilt of excess calories is what you want, not a depressing 30g salad!

The biggest bit of advice I can offer is keep yourself happy whilst you’re dieting. If you feel constantly run down, tired and depressed it’s not going to work out. Fact. you’re probably giving yourself too few calories anyway! Enjoy cooking fresh meals, trying out new food combinations and treating yourself. Treats don’t have to be bad.

However… you should feel hungry while you adapt, it can take a while for your stomach to shrink!

I’ll be posting over the coming weeks on my own diet and how my weight loss is going, so stay tune…

don’t forget, believe in yourself! You can do it with patience, self discipline, belief. It gets easier I promise..

And most importantly keep yourself happy!

What is a healthy diet? 

Diet. The word is enough to make people shudder, and is unanimously one of the most common questions I get asked when I tell people I do triathlon. “Are you on a diet”, “are you really careful with what you eat?”.

Having moved through the sports from a 60kg young ballet dancer to a 94kg rower and back to a 78kg triathlete I’ve experienced a vast range of nutritional techniques supporting and detracting from sport at a variety of different levels.

   

 Well for a start, what actually is a diet?

I’ve got friends that are lactose intolerant, so they avoid foods that are going to flair up their symptoms, is that a diet?

I’ve got friends that are power lifters, so eat everything they see to gain weight and power. That’s a diet too right?

I know people that don’t do sport but have a diet rich in vitamins and minerals to stay healthy, also a diet no?

As well as people that just don’t eat to stay as small as possible, they’d also argue they’re dieting.

And I have friends that are trying to lose weight like myself and they regularly ask me what they should eat, a topic I’ll be covering in my next blog. But this is the most stereotypical form of diet, weight loss.
So right now I know what you’re thinking…. and yes I actually have friends.

But what ticks the box for a healthy diet? Arguably the most healthy of the above options is the natural diet that gives the body optimum sustenance with none of the sometimes damaging effects of sport. Avoiding illness and keeping your body well looked after, giving it everything it needs to function.

A very narrow minded Google defines diet as specifically weight loss, however controlled weight gain is also a very popular form of diet.

Stating the obvious for one to lose weight calories in < calories out. Fact. Therefore to lose weight you’re starving your body of the nutrients it needs to function, encouraging it to adapt to perform using less calories and burn the fat that already exists in your body, and naturally some of the muscle too.

But starving your body to encourage the depletion of healthy stores that your body has saved up doesn’t sound very healthy to me? Although it is dieting.

   

A lot of people that know me will know I love a nice meal out with friends and have a heavy soft spot for sugar, but having lost 11kg in 10 weeks for Ironman Wales I’m no stranger to the diet world. A slow sustained weight management diet can prove healthy and beneficial however it takes time, resilience and patiences and won’t happen over night. It can also be hard, harder than going to the gym or exercising, because the will to say no and resist temptation can be almost impossible when your body is running deficits.

So a diet is just eating specific foods, but a healthy diet? Be it losing weight or gaining weight I would define careful nutritional management for constant benefit as a healthy diet. Eliminating harmful substances and not using the radical tactics some people take to punish their body hoping for imminent effect. Careful control over the nutrients supplied to body should be what a diet is. This way it is also most effective and can actually be defined as healthy.

So to answer the original question, what is a healthy diet?

A healthy diet is not harmful. It is careful nutrition, self discipline and time.