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Balance the diet

A healthy breakfast meal.

I get asked about how to eat healthily and what nutrients are most useful when working out (particularly when adding muscle or losing fat).

Sometimes these kinds of discussions can become technical and move too far away, in my opinion, from the pleasures of food and living a positive life, by which I mean turning conversations about what we eat into debates over which fuel is best for the body.

Going down this road reduces the value and joys that a healthy diet can play in our lives, whether in or out of the gym.

There are, however, some generally accepted principles where a healthy diet is concerned and which, interestingly cover both the physical and mental state. This latter point is important, in my opinion, as by pulling the focus back as much as possible from training and the gym floor, we can also support mental and emotional health and understand the role that diet plays in strengthening both.

There are principles I follow in this area, for example, and which I advocate others also follow. These include drinking and eating regularly throughout the day, and intelligently choosing the right foods when doing so.

This is important to reduce the risk of dehydration (which can affect the body and our cognitive processes or how we think), as well as to ensure we have enough energy to perform. The cells in our bodies and brain require water to function and not hydrating throughout a day reduces our ability to perform. Plus, if we do become dehydrated we can feel lethargic, which in turn can drive us to quick energy fixes, such as grabbing a coffee, which can lead to rushes of energy, accompanied by the need to urinate, which in turn will dehydrate the body further.

Eating at regular intervals (every three to four hours, for example) also maintains our blood sugar levels, reduces the risk of blood sugar spikes, and ensures that when we train we have the energy and focus to do so.

Overall, balancing hydration and a healthy diet has been demonstrated to not only increase our energy levels and maintain these levels through the day but also to maintain our mood and positivity. We fuel both the physical and the mental, which in turn enables us to resist the temptation of turning to heavily processed foods lacking in nutrition each day.