August 15, 2016

5 key steps to sort out your nutrition

LAST WEEK I highlighted nutrition as one of the key building blocks you need to get right to achieve your health and fitness goals.

But nutrition can be a minefield. It’s easy to get confused when weighing up paleo, weightwatchers, vegan, gluten-free and the massive sugar debate too.

The industry is full of mixed information and it’s important to differentiate between the good and the bad.


What works for me or you, may not be ideal for someone else. We all have different goals, body types, hormonal systems, activity levels, lifestyles and surroundings.

Don’t be fooled by going down the same avenue just because it seems to work for someone else.

We all need different training regimes depending on our goals and your diet is exactly the same.

But there are some core principles to remember.

Forget the diet pills, miracle six-week transformation medicines, juicing detoxes and certain crazy supplements, they won’t work.

This is where I see people making mistakes.

They are looking for the quick-fix supplements yet they continue with poor sleeping patterns and are still failing to eat enough real food and drink enough water.

Let’s take a look at the stuff you should be focusing on.

1. Calories in/calories out (energy balance)

This is pretty basic.

Measure your recommended caloric intake using any an online calculator. It’s simple –eating lots of calories with little to no activity will lead to weight gain. So get working on that — figure out how many calories you should be taking in with the correct macro-nutrient breakdown your goals.

2. Macronutrients/fibre/micronutrients/water

Most of your diet should consist of natural, whole foods with minimal processing. Meats, fish, vegetables, some fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs, some dairy and grain products.

Carbs – potatoes (sweet and white), wild rice, butternut squash, quinoa, leafy greens, spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, asparagus, sprouts.

Proteins –  Red meats, chicken, turkey, fatty fish and eggs. Increasing your protein intake will lead to better changes in the body, make you feel fuller and stop those sugar cravings.

Healthy fats – avocados, olives, nuts, cream, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, and full-fat natural yogurt.

Fibre – various beans, chickpeas, apples, some potatoes and fibrous vegetables.

Water – Drink  2-4 litres daily

Key points:

Eat 3-4 good meals a dayAllow time to prepare your mealsEat a protein source at every main meal, ideally 20-40gLoad up plate with good selection of green leafy vegetablesThumbsize portion of fat or cook your meats/fish in coconut oilSlow down, enjoy your food and relaxHydrate during meal times

Nutrition should be something that enhances your life and something that shouldn’t take over.

3. Eat real food and enjoy it

Certain foods shouldn’t be forbidden or banned from your daily life, food intolerances excepted of course.

Adopt an 80/20 or 90/10 approach, 80% of the time I will eat well and enjoy my food which gives me scope to eat stuff that I truly enjoy in moderation.

Eating 100% clean is a path that is actually quite unnecessary and has proven to lead to a crash and binge down the line.

So go have that pizza or ice-cream, just don’t overdo it.

4. Small, smart and steady steps

Make one or two small changes and stick with them for seven days.

It could be something simple as starting your day off with a pint of filtered water.

Make this a priority each day, then sooner or later this will become a good, healthy habit.

Following this, pick another challenge for the next week. This could be aiming to get at least 20-30g protein per meal.

Keep track of these tasks and grade yourself throughout the seven days.

These are a few of my recent goals:

Quality sleep (8 hours)Start day off with waterCut back on coffee intakeSet aside 1-2 hours every Sunday to prep my week aheadAt least 20 mins daily working on switching off/mobility/meditation

Source: Shutterstock/Nejron Photo

5. Supplements 

Supplements also get a big mention.

I could go on for days here but I’ll keep this short and sweet.

You shouldn’t consider going down this route if you haven’t got the basics above sorted.

Lots of us make the big mistake of purchasing protein/creatine/BCAAs with the hope that it’s going to solve all our problems. Yet at the same time we still haven’t got to grips with our sleep habits and basic food intake.

Get the food right first, find a good coach, work with him/her for a while and then ask them for advice on supplements somewhere down the road.

David Last is a personal trainer based in Dublin, for more information you can follow him on FacebookInstagram and Twitter