We all know about five-a-day and keeping an eye on our fat and alcohol intake – but how important is healthy eating as part of your overall fitness plan? And is it just about what we eat, or is it about how we eat? The Moment talks to Vivacity personal trainer and nutrition specialist Jamie Fitzjohn about eating right for weight loss and general health
What is the first most basic piece of advice that you give to people regarding diet?
What I mostly tell people is not to cut out certain foods. A lot of people cut out things like carbs or fats completely because they think these are things that make them bigger or are unhealthy. But we need carbs, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. A balanced diet is the key. When you don’t eat carbs at all your body craves them even more, and it can also make it worse when you’re exercising. I’ve seen people who have gone on the treadmill not having had any carbs and they end up fainting or collapsing.
So you need carbs for sustained energy?
You have different types of carbs: the simple and the complex. Sugar is a simple carb which can give a quick burst of energy, then there are the complex carbs – grains, beans, rice and so on – which give a slow release. Complex carbs are the sort of thing you want to have before a workout. By contrast, if just have a chocolate bar, you’ll get a buzz for 20 mins, but then that energy will crash back down again. Carbs are the thing that really sustain you throughout the day.
What’s the single biggest mistake people make when changing their diet for better health?
People try to do everything at once, which can be a mistake. If you’ve had bad eating habits for a while it’s going to be difficult to make a sudden change – just like giving up smoking. With diet and exercise it’s usually better to introduce it gradually, little and
Is healthy eating alone enough to make you healthy, and do people’s needs vary?
Often. It’s better for your body and also can make it easier to stick to the new regime. Most experts say that 60-70% of the change in your body Most experts say that 60-70% of the change in your body no matter what your specific goals are, result from your diet. That’s quite a high percentage. However, you need exercise and diet together to achieve 100% results. There is also something called the BMR, or Basal Metabolic Rate. The more muscle you have, and the higher your BMR, the more calories you burn. So, putting on muscle – even where it doesn’t show, such as from doing cardio – can make a difference.
Has thinking on food changed – and did parents give us any bad advice?
Yes and no! We know much more about food now, so our relationship with food has changed. Like most people, I was brought up on three meals a day – breakfast, lunch, dinner – but if you’re eating for specific goals or for health, I advise people to eat five to six meals a day, so the food is spread throughout the day. That has several fitness benefits: you don’t feel as hungry through the day, it’s easier to digest, and those calories get used better during the day. If you have most of your calories in the evening, all you’re really doing is eating those calories and then going to sleep with them unused. It’s little things like that.
What would be some other basic tips to get people started?
If you can just swap to a bit of fruit or veg from any processed, fatty sugary snacks like biscuits or crisps, then you’re doing something good for your body. Even though there’s sugar in fruit, it’s much better for you because the body digests them slightly differently. With a meal perhaps replace a portion of chips with a portion of broccoli. There’s actually more protein in 100 calories of broccoli that there is in 100 calories of beef or chicken. You really just need three things to get fit and stay fit: sensible eating and drinking, regular exercise and mental determination. And if you burn more calories than you consume, then 9 times out of 10 you should lose weight. But each person is a little bit different, and that’s where a nutritionist or personal trainer can advise, drawing up a good eating plan with meal suggestions that are exactly right for you and your goals.
● Vivacity offers a weight management class and personal training at most Vivacity sites. Vivacity Premier Fitness now also stocks Goprotein® shakes and bars in the café – shakes from £1.50. ● Formore information, visit www.vivacitypeterborough.com