You are what you eat!”, so we’re told, but we’re yet to see bipedal carrots or French fries striding up and down Oxford Street. So is this is just a scaremongering tactic that has never carried any weight (pun intended), or is there some truth in it…?

Most of us eat a handful of meals a day, because of an instinct to stay alive, and because we love it! Most social gatherings (remember them…?) have food or drink as at their centre. They bring us together; they divide our opinions; they define entire nations! And yet with such a widely shared practice, how can there be so many myths, and how come so many of us consistently get it wrong!?

Well, let’s go right back to basics. Picture yourself as a car. Are you a big car or a small one? That will broadly tell you how much fuel you need to put in your car, so up to an estimated 2000kcal for women and up to 2500kcal for men. But hang on a minute…you could have a whacking great sports car, but if you don’t drive it, you don’t need to fuel it, right? Kind of…

We all exist with our engines on tick-over, 24/7, so we have to fuel it just to keep our organs going, our cells regenerating and to keep our bodies warm. This tick-over level is your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), and will vary from person to person, but make no mistake, the fireworks set off when we start moving! Any activity will rev the engine up – and the higher the intensity, the higher the revs! A varied 1-hour workout will rev your engine to the tune of about 500-700kcal, so you’d better have that fuel in the tank!

So, just shove any cheap fuel in there, right? WRONG! Not all calories are the same, which essentially means that counting your calorie intake is not the right approach! 2000kcal derived from nasty, refined, manufactured rubbish will do very different things to your engine, versus fresh, natural, whole foods – fact.

In a western society such as ours, there’s constant access to refined carbohydrates such as pre-packed snacks, chocolate bars, crisps, and basically any convenience food. They last for ages – a telltale sign of how processed they are… But unfortunately, when these ‘treats’ get to our cells, we can’t really do much with them, so rather than using them to fuel our activity, we store this energy as…you’ve guessed it…fat! And then to add insult to inconvenience, we can’t easily access those stores later to get rid of it! Darn that refined food!

Our nutrition decision-making, should be based on some fundamental principles:

  • Eat meals where most of it (80%+) is the whole food. Not something made up of lots of other things, but THE whole food…there…on your plate.
  • Be colourful! Look at your plate: choose a variety of foods that add natural colour. And don’t forget, green is good! Leafy greens are premium fuel for our bodies, and with a bit of imagination, don’t have to taste like you’re a grazing animal chewing on grass…
  • Save yourself time, and keep it raw! We’re not suggesting raw chicken…but if there’s an option to eat raw veg and fruits, you’ll get the best version of all those nutrients
  • We’re made up of about 60% water, so keep it topped up! Your cells have a watery base, so 2 litres per day of water (not juice, or gin!) keeps the roads in your body flowing nicely. Drink 8 medium glasses (8oz) per day, and step it up to 10 glasses if it’s particularly hot, or you’ve nailed a sweaty workout!
  • Finally (although many other principles are out there!), have a variety of good quality carbs, protein, and fats on every plate

And once you’ve nailed these ideals, think about giving your guts a break a few times a week. By that, we mean a gap of 14-16 hours between your evening meal and brekkie the next morning, which will help keep intestinal inflammation at bay, and recalibrate your levels of gut bacteria. Sound tough? Well, aim for tea at 6pm, then nothing until 10am the following day, twice a week. Listen to your gut – it’ll thank you for it!

Nutrition is a complex area, littered with terrible tips and fatuous fads, but if nothing else sticks in your brain, let it be this:

There’s no such thing as Junk Food. There’s food…and there’s junk.

Fuel your car well, and rev that engine!