We hear a lot about healthy eating, diets and what to eat for energy, to lose weight or to gain muscle. There is, it seems, an entire media and fitness industry on what to eat and when, and that’s even before considering the supplements sector of the market.
I am not a fan of supplements as a whole and do my best to avoid artificial or processed (particularly heavily processed) ingredients whenever possible. Coming from the south of France and near the sea, I grew up on a natural and healthy diet of fish (anyone who knows me also knows how much I love fish!), lean meat and fresh fruit and vegetables, all of which have been proven over the years to be good for us. To this day, I still live with a natural and freshly prepared food ethos and believe that life should be lived in as authentic a state as possible, which includes what we eat and drink.
One nutritional discussion that has intrigued me recently is over how foods are combined and what that combining can do to the body. We know, as a general starting point, what foods are good for us and what to eat in moderation (if at all). How we assemble foods and when we eat them is, however, just as important in maintaining a healthy and nutritious diet. As such, how we combine ingredients and staples into meals is crucial to avoid problems with digestion, bloating and fat absorption.
Food, once eaten and en-route to and through the stomach will mix with everything else that has also been eaten (some of which will be digested more slowly than other foods or ingredients) and which, in combination can cause a whole series of problems for our digestion and sense of energy (or exhaustion). This is partly the source of food intolerances and problems with our bowels, both of which can be avoided by taking intelligent decisions as to what to consume.
To avoid such problems, my advice would be to first understand the body and what our individual experiences are concerning what we eat, what we need to eat, and what potentially can cause dietary problems. If our bodies, as well as our responses to food and requirements, are properly understood future food issues can be avoided.
In addition, and specifically when training, I always advise my clients to avoid eating in the hour before training, to avoid putting demands on the body and to not do two things at the same time; digesting food and exercising the body.
Doing both of these things together can be an uncomfortable and distracting experience, as the body has to divert its resources and attention to separate areas when the objective is to exercise with a focus on training alone. For myself, I like a short coffee and perhaps a single square of dark chocolate before hitting the gym, which gives me the immediate energy and spark I need to workout, without splitting my energy and attention into different areas.
Ideally, as I also advise my clients, not consuming anything in the hour before training is, I think, the best way to go, as this will also drive the efficiency of the workout. Just remember not to junk out afterwards, when the body will be demanding sustenance and the brain will be looking to supply this as quickly as possible!
So, eat and drink intelligently at the right times and be aware of what is being consumed. That way lies a happy life, free of indigestion or health problems that have the potential to become more serious further down the track.