Monday 3 October 2016

Is Clean Eating Healthy? Can You Out-train A Bad Diet? Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer Explains

There are a lot of trendy diets and food fashions out there, from clean eating to carb cycling (check out Instagram!). But are they healthy or simply the latest fad that’ll fall out of favour as quickly as they have risen in popularity?

Face Up Beauty invited clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer, from Nutrition Lifestyle, to lay down the real facts on healthy eating and how we should adapt our diet according to exercise discipline.

Q: How key is nutrition to our overall health and fitness?
A: It’s absolutely key.  The body requires around 40 or more nutrients a day in order to achieve optimal wellness – which many people do not meet. Lots of people live in a state of 0 feel.  Unfortunately, stress depletes the body of certain nutrients, particularly the B vitamins, which is why lots of people suffer from low energy.  The more fatigued people feel, the less likely they are to exercise. 

Q:  Is it possible to out-train a bad diet?
A: No. I’ve seen many people start training for a marathon and wonder why they are putting on weight!  This is because they automatically think they either need more calories, or are simply rewarding themselves with too many treats.  An average hour session in the gym will burn around 500 calories but a sandwich can contain 3/400 calories.  For weight loss to occur you have to be in calorie deficit. 

Q: What constitutes a healthy diet?
A: We don’t all suit the same eating plan. However, a healthy diet should certainly contain lots of colour variety.  I recommend people try to eat all the colours of the rainbow in one day.  It’s the colours or pigments, particularly in fruits and vegetables, which provide the powerful antioxidants and plant compounds that give so many health benefits.

Q: What are macro and micro nutrients? How much should our diet contain of each and what are good sources?
A: Macronutrients are proteins, fats and carbohydrates.  Generally, we should aim for 20% protein, 60% carbohydrates and 20% fats [by calorific value], and these should be predominantly from the essential fats (omega-3’s and 6’s).

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals, which are all essential for health and wellbeing. Deficiency symptoms can arise if we become low in these nutrients.  Certain foods are nutrient dense, particularly whole grains, whole foods, and green leafy vegetables so these should be present in a healthy diet.

Q: Should we change our diet according to what exercise we're doing? For example, should a runner eat a completely different diet to, say, a bodybuilder?
A: Yes.  For example, a body builder might need around 1.7 grams of protein, or more, per kilogram of body weight.  However, an endurance runner will need less – maybe around 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass because they need to have a higher carbohydrate intake. 

However, it is really individual; it depends on exercise intensity and how many hours training are being undertaken each week.  Additionally, female athletes generally need around 15% less protein than men

low-carb meal
Q: Carb cycling, i.e. only eating carbs on training days, has become massively popular. Why carb cycle and is it healthy?
A: I think people sometimes forget that fruit and vegetables are also carbohydrates and will provide energy.  Glycogen (our main energy source) in our muscles is not stored immediately; it takes a while to be metabolised.  Therefore, it would be more productive to eat carbs the day before training, have a high glycemic snack such as a banana before training and then have a higher protein ratio meal/snack post training.

Leon's 'Superclean Chicken Quinoa Salad'
Q: Clean eating is another big trend right now. What does 'clean eating' actually mean and is this a healthy diet to follow?
A: ‘Clean eating’ has become very ‘trendy’.  However, the phrase will mean something different for everyone and primarily ‘pseudo’ nutritional experts, of whom there are many around, have promoted it!  Some may recommend that everyone banish gluten from the diet; but this does not need to be the case.  We all benefit from a diet that suits our individual body bio-chemistry. 

However, there are a few simple rules that certainly constitute eating ‘clean’ and can benefit everyone; you can never eat too many vegetables! Reduce or eliminate as much refined sugar as possible and that includes ‘hidden’ sugars in cereals and low-fat foods, and increasing water intake; being dehydrated will cause low energy, low mood, lack of motivation and a lazy digestive system. 

Sometimes, keeping things simple, and eating in ways that are unequivocally scientifically proven, is the best way to achieve maximum health benefits

Q: Supplements have a massive presence in the fitness world. Why have protein supps in particular become so popular and do we really need to take any form of supplement? Surely we can get all the nutrients we need from our diet?
A: Supplements have a place in both the fitness world and in everyday life.  It is almost impossible to get everything we need from the daily diet with modern farming methods, food delivery methods and stressful lifestyles being massively, nutritionally depleting factors.

When exercising hard, the body becomes even more depleted; whilst some body builders tend to overdo the protein intake (the body can only metabolize a certain amount and then it’s excreted), it’s not always physically possible to eat the macro and micronutrients required for optimal wellness.  Additionally, certain supplements, such as Astaxanthin, have been extensively researched and found to boost muscle endurance and recovery.

Q: Are there any other key aspects of fitness and lifestyle nutrition that readers need be aware of?
A: Readers need to be aware of ‘fad’ diets and exercise programmes.  There are many ‘pseudo’ experts around and people need to be aware of looking for the ‘quick fix’!  No-one needs to spend hours in the kitchen to eat a healthy balanced diet, but they do need to do a little forward meal planning, maybe at the beginning of each week. 

Equally, exercise is really important as part of a healthy lifestyle, but do something you enjoy and then you’re more likely to maintain the programme!

About Suzie Sawyer 

Suzie Sawyer is a clinical nutritionist and founder of Nutrition Lifestyle. She graduated from the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in London, and has operated a number of private practices including one in Harley Street, London. She specialises in digestive issues, weight management, stress related issues and sports nutrition.

As well as being a Nutritionist, Suzie is a keen recreational sports person and has completed a number of marathons and half marathons and has a particular interest in Sports Nutrition.

Pic credits: 
Body builder – Lin Mei 
Fruit + Veg – Channone Arif 

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