Guest Blog | How to Eat Well by Clif Bar UK
You are made of elements that come from the water you drink, sunlight and the food you eat.....What is more, our bodies are constantly changing with some cells being replaced every few days.
In fact, according to Iris Schrijver, professor of pathology at Stanford University, almost all of our bodies are less than 10 years old.
This means we really are what we eat, so if we want to be healthy, gain the most from exercise or perform well in sporting events, we also need to eat well.
But what does this look like?
There is of course lots of information out there, but it is still possible to cut through all the opinion and settle on some general truths that will be applicable to all of us.
Here we will look at the big nutritional wins that you should make sure not to miss out on.
Understanding the fundamentals for a good diet is key for everyone, so let’s start by looking at the main nutritional groups and how to spot or include them in your meals.
- Carbohydrates: Carbs are the body’s go to energy source for higher intensity exercise. If you’re exercising hard enough that you can’t talk easily, then you’ll be predominantly using stored carbohydrate to keep your pace. They are also crucial for fat burning and the maintenance of muscle mass. Key points: You find carbs in foods that grow (like grains, fruit or pulses), foods that are made of grains (like bread or pasta), or foods with lots of sugar added (because sugar grew). This should help you find carbs rich foods, next time you’re in the supermarket. We don’t store much so need to eat some during harder exercise that lasts longer than 90mins, this is where specifically designed products like CLIF Bar can be very useful.
- Protein: The body uses protein to grow, repair and adapt to any exercise that you do (it doesn’t give you muscles unless that is what you are training to do!). Key points: Proteins are made up of over 20 amino acids each with different jobs in the body. We find proteins in foods that come from animals (meat, eggs dairy) and much is made of the fact that these foods have all the amino acids. However, plant foods such as beans, lentils, nuts and grains also have good levels of protein and as long as you eat a variety of these foods it’s quite possible to get all the amino acids you need. While you don’t need much each day, protein should be part of every meal and snack, so the body has a constant source.
- Lipids: ‘Fat’ is actually a lipid that is solid at room temperature while oils are lipids that are liquid at room temperature. Key points: Broadly speaking, fats are less good for us while oils support many aspects of health including providing energy that it easily stored and useful for powering us while sedentary or during lower intensity exercise. We need to ensure that there are some good lipids (oils) in all of our meals and snacks to maintain health, with olive, nut and avocado oils a good place to start. The addition of nuts (especially walnuts) and seeds is also a good way to boost our ‘good fat’ consumption.
Massive research projects such as the Global Burden of Disease study have helped to show us what particular areas of nutrition are key to both our health and longevity.
If you want to live long - well, then this study is one that gives us good clues as to how.
What then does the reseach suggest that we eat?
Well, the data shows that we should eat a diet high in:
- Whole Grains
- Herbs and spices
This huge study also shows we should look to reduce our intake of the following foods:
- Processed food
Processed Food: Obviously, when you think of processed food you think of take-aways, porkpies and sweet treats, but look at this picture, is this basket full of healthy choices, or processed food?
Many people are confused as to what foods are processed and what aren’t, but it’s more helpful to imagine foods on a spectrum that ranges from ‘not at all’ (e.g. fresh veg), to ‘doesn’t exist in nature’ (examples might include sweets, soft drinks, artificially flavoured savoury snacks or cheap meat slices).
It is for us to decide how processed a product is and whether that level is ‘too’ processed.
Questions to ask ourselves are:
- Could I buy the ingredients and make it myself?
- How many ingredients are there?
- Does it contain processed meat of any kind (recognized as a food to limit or avoid)?
- How much does is seem to have been messed about with during the process of making it (i.e. Muesli – not too much, frosted cheap flakes – quite a bit more)?
Wholefood: The opposite of processed food, this term is becoming a buzz-word and is something that we should be engaging with if we want to eat well.
We want to choose foods that have been messed with as little as possible, so if you see that the first word on the ingredients list is ‘whole’ you’re probably onto a good thing.
You can monitor this very easily, simply look at your plate of food, or your shopping trolley as you head to the till. It is full of foods that you can identify as having existed in nature or not.
If the answer is yes to 80% or more, you’re ok. Less, and you could do better.
Ask how you could make simple swaps to reach a more wholefood diet.
Colour: Lastly, a simple way to apply the science to your life is to eat the most naturally colourful diet possible.
Different nutrients show as different colours, so if you eat green, red, orange, yellow and purple plant foods each day then you’re probably ticking off the main nutrients you need to stay healthy and perform well.
Other practical tips:
Eat a fresh (includes frozen veg and fruit), natural, wholefood, colourful diet which blends carbs, protein and lipids in all your meals and snacks to support your training and you’ll get the most from your training possible.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a good deal to me. But what else can we do to get our nutrition right?
- Structure: Most meals should be half salad, veg or fruit with ¼ whole grains and ¼ lean meat or vegetarian protein alternative (like beans or pulses). All meals should also include healthy oil like olive oil either poured over or involved in the cooking process (Olive oil is fine to cook with, despite widespread information suggesting otherwise).
- Listen: Hunger is when we need to eat, appetite is when we want Recognise which of these you are feeling and try to limit the times you respond to appetite as this often leads to overeating and bad food choices.
- THE KEY RULE, 80:20: Get all of this right 80% of the time and the other 20% doesn’t matter too much. For example, you might find that it’s much easier getting your diet right through the week if you know that Saturday evening through to Monday morning are free for you to have a little of what you want! Your pallet can change quite quickly and it’s common for people to find that the more natural, unprocessed food they eat, the less they like the processed food that were once the go to options. Expect this to happen, and when it does, embrace the change and don’t go back to the unhealthier meals of the past.
A Word on Moderation:
Everything in moderation right?
Well, maybe; but the question is what is moderation?
If moderation is a little every day then its worth considering a comment made by Dr Michael Greger, founder of Nutritionfacts.org who equates few treats every day to banging your shin on a coffee table; You might only get a bruise, but do this day after day and the body doesn’t get time to heal and so the brise will turn to a cut, then a gash, then a shore and then an open wound.
Instead, we should think about moderation as occasional treats, making them part of celebrations, or even just keeping them to the weekend and eating in a manner than allows our body to heal and repair inbetween.
Modertion may well be a good philosophy, we just might need to redifine what it means.
In additon to increasing awareness of issues surrounding health globally, we also live at a time when we have never been more aware of environmental and welfare issues and the rise of veganism has been swift and sudden.
The term vegan only desribes what isn’t eaten not what is and instead a ‘Whole-food, Plant-based diet’ might be a better definition of what the research suggests we should eat.
In conclusion, we should aim to base our diet on the eight food catagories listed above and the 100s if not 1000s of foods contained under their umbrella.
Sure, it might be a little harder initially, but it’s less expesive, healthier, (subjectively), tastier, more sustainable, better for the plant (largely by reducing the stress from agriculture, which is good for animals too), drives more creative meals, will help us live longer and crucially age better.
CLIF Bar’s #makeitgood campain is about their aim to be a different type of food company, one that if for health, sustainablility, community and the plant.
If these significant benefits can come from a way of eating that science also suggests is the best for us then the question we need to ask oursevles is why would we not make these changes for the greater good of ourselves and the world around us and #makeitgood too.
The ideas and suggestions written above are the opinions of Joel Enoch, an award-winning triathlon coach for the Hartree JETS, 9-time GB Age-group triathlete, 2 x Great Swim/Run winner and CLIF Bar’s paid nutritional ambassador in the UK. This article is provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or care. The contents of this article are not intended to make health or nutrition claims about Clif Bar & Company products. Always seek the advice of a Doctor or other qualified health provider before beginning any physical fitness or health and nutrition related activity. @ClifBar #feedyouradventure #makeitgood @joel_enoch (twitter) @tricoachjoel (Instagram)