Working with nutritionists over the years, one key lesson I learned was how to build a healthy balanced meal. It sounds so simple but it is only when you look at what you actually eat that you realize there are times you are only eating one food type.
Take breakfast for example. How many people have toast and jam to start the day? What many people may not realise is that there is only one food type here – carbohydrate. The body fasts during sleep so the first meal of the day is very important.
To have a balanced, nutritious start to the day is incredibly important and your meal should include a source of protein, vegetables or fruit and a source of carbohydrate if needs be. I say ‘if needs be’ because if you are someone who is looking to lose weight, then you don’t need to fuel up with a bowl or plate full of carbohydrates. The aim for all meals is to achieve balance, and breakfast is no different, so you should try to include some protein, vegetables or fruit and depending on your personal body goals, slow release carbohydrates.
Now I am not anti carbs, I just feel people are eating too many processed, poor quality carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates in the Body
To explain how carbohydrates work in the body I’m going to use water as an example. If you can imagine, I am holding a glass of water ¾ full in my right hand and a jug of water in my left hand. If I pour the water from the jug into the glass and continue to do so, it will over flow. If I fill the glass to the top and stop, and then take a drink from the glass I can then top up the glass with water from the jug. This is exactly how the body works, with one difference, when the water overflows, i.e. when the body consumes too much carbohydrate, it gets turned to fat and the result is weight gain. When we exercise it is similar to taking a drink from the glass and then we can re fuel with a carbohydrate meal post exercise. The more we exercise the more carbohydrate we can consume.
Post exercise it is extremely important to re fuel with a carb/protein snack in the 20 minutes immediately after training. The need for this answered by how hard you have worked, i.e. the rate of perceived exertion or simply put, the ‘talk test’. If you are doing a training session where the intensity is such that you can talk well then you don’t need a recovery snack. If it is high intensity and you can barely stand never mind talk well then a recovery snack is required.
Examples of recovery snacks include Banana, Orange juice, Nuts, Whey Protein, Flavoured Milk, Fruit yogurt or so called health bars.
The Recovery Dish
The recovery dish should be balanced, containing sources from all good groups. Throughout the week, the more variety of foods and the more colour on the plate the better.
To control portions size I simply use my hands. One palm of your hand should equate to the size of the protein served, a fist for vegetables, half a cupped hand for carbohydrate and a thumb length for fat.
Some examples of my favorites for each food type are:
Protein – Chicken, Turkey, Beef, Eggs, Tofu, Fish and Beans.
Carbohydrates – Oats, Sweet Potato, Quinoa, Bulgar wheat, Butternut squash and Cous cous.
Fruit – I aim to eat thin skin fruit such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, apples and kiwi’s. These fruit are full of antioxidants and hold less fructose.
Vegetables – The more colour you can eat the better. I tend to aim for above ground vegetables as much as possible.
Fat – Rapeseed oil, olive oil, coconut oil, avocadoes, nuts, seeds, feta cheeses, olives and mozzarella.
The “Square’ Plate