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Thread: Nutrition 101 - An Article Written by Me...

  1. #1

    Default Nutrition 101 - An Article Written by Me...

    Hi all, thought this might be a lot of use to you, there are often a lot of 'myths' posted on here in regards to nutrition, so i wrote an article this week to help people on the forum. It does contain a lot of useful information so i hope it is helpful.

    Nutrition 101

    By Gareth Ramsden (BSc Hons and qualified eating disorder support figure)

    Nutrition is an aspect which is often overlooked when individuals train and have goals. There is a common mindset that exercise is infact more important in terms of progression as apposed to good nutrition. In reality, nutrition is the foundations of progress, with exercise complimenting that sound nutritional approach.

    There are very simple changes which can be made to your diet, which are further
    discussed within this article, which will then become a lifestyle, rather than a
    change of diet.

    Many people in the modern world are guilty of wanting results too quickly, which
    tends to leave people resorting to fad diets and crash diets, in order to see the
    scales plummet. However, this yo-yo dieting is not advisable, and in reality,
    progress is limited as the individuals weight will go down, back up, go down and
    back up. A sound nutritional approach will yield progress for a long period of time
    with solid, attainable results.

    For the athlete, it is important to ensure there is an adequate intake of protein, carbohydrate and fats, geared towards individual goals, in order to improve performance and also overall health and fitness.

    There are many energy systems that the body has available, all utilising different fuels as a substrate. A functional fitness trainer will use all of those energy systems during their training, therefore a sound nutritional approach with protein, carbs and fats in the correct ratio, will increase performance.


    Proteins are the building blocks for growth and repair. Athletes need a higher intake of protein as opposed to an individual who is sedentary. Exercise breaks down muscle tissue, which is then repaired via dietary protein. Excellent choices of protein are –

    • eggs
    • fish
    • steak
    • whey protein powders
    • turkey
    • some cheeses (be careful of fat intake)
    • quorn.


    Carbohydrates are important within the diet as glycogen is the preferred energy source of the body. When any form of starchy carb or simple carb is consumed by an individual, they body breaks it down into sugar. Glycogen is a form of energy store within the body. When the bloodstream has too much sugar, it converts it to glycogen, this is to regulate blood sugars levels.

    Activity which is high in intensity rely on the release of carbs for energy, as they do not need the presence of oxygen in order to be utilised during exercise. Glycogen which is not used during exercise is stored within the muscle cells and also the liver. Muscle glycogen stores have a higher storage capacity for glycogen as opposed to the liver.

    Carbohydrates tend to be classified by 2 categories, simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates tend to be released into the blood stream quicker than complex carbohydrates due to their atomic structure.

    However, this is not always the situation, for example, dextrose is a simple carbohydrate and maltodextrin is a complex carbohydrate. Maltodextrin has a very similar atomic structure to dextrose, with only 1 structural difference, and is released into the bloodstream at the same rate as dextrose, however, it is still classed as a complex carbohydrate.

    Carbohydrates are important for the athlete as they provide energy for the body to use at rest and also during exercise. High intensity exercise relies more on carbohydrates as the presence of oxygen is not needed in order to utilise the carbohydrates.

    The choice of carbohydrates for the athlete, depend on timing and also activity. However, try to include the following as the majority of your carbohydrate intake…

    • rice
    • pasta
    • rice cakes
    • wholemeal bread
    • wholemeal pittas
    • oats
    • potatoes
    • cous cous

    Ensure that the majority of carbs within your diet come from complex, slow release carbs, as they will provide a slow and sustained release of energy. Simple carbohydrates are quick release for energy which is needed as soon as possible. Complex, slow release carbs are also better for a more regulated blood sugar level, to avoid ‘sugar rushes and sugar crashes’.

    Strive to eliminate sugars from table sugar on cereals, sugary foods like sweets, desserts, and from some sports drinks (when sugars are not needed).


    Fat helps to provide energy whilst the individual is sedentary and also fat is used and oxidised as an energy source during low intensity exercise. There must be oxygen present in order for fat to be oxidised by the body and utilised as a fuel source.

    Try and reduce the intake of saturated, trans fats and also oxidised fats within your diet. Too much saturated fats within the diet can lead to a rise in total cholesterol for those individuals. The body does need some saturated fats, however, a moderate consumption could lead to cholesterol complications. High cholesterol can potentially lead to Coronary Heart disease, increased risk of strokes and heart attacks and also Atherosclerosis, which is when the artery walls thicken as a result of fatty acid being deposited inside.

    Saturated fats is harder for the body to oxidise in comparison to unsaturated fats, due to the presence of hydrogen atoms within the saturated fats. This leads to a result in the potential for more saturated fat to be stored by the body, as opposed to unsaturated fats.

    Unsaturated fats provide the body with essential fats that the body does not generate. The fatty acids are stripped and utilised by the body, and the fat is used for energy.

    Unsaturated fats are a great way to get essential fats into the diet, foods such as oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds and some oils.

    Saturated fats are found in butters, creams, lard, full fat milk, etc… and should be limited within the diet.

    Omega 3, 6 and 9 intake is very important in order to achieve an optimal level of health. Omega 3 and 6 are important for the health and well being of the human body, especially omega 3, as it has been proven within studies, that omega 3 can lead to a lower risk of heart disease.

    Other benefits include –

    • Increase in performance and stamina
    • Improved digestion
    • Improved recovery
    • Increased strength of the immune system
    • Improved brain function.

    Many people fail to include omega 3 sources within the diet, therefore more oily fish, fish oils, flax oil, flax seeds, etc… would be a great inclusion into the diet.

    Include more ‘healthy fats’, within the diet from –

    • Oily fish
    • fish oils
    • nuts
    • seeds
    • some oils


    Ensure that fibrous fruit and vegetables are within the diet. They provide fibre, energy and also help to bulk meals out and make the individual feel satiated. A portion of fruit 3-4 times during the day is a good way to get vitamins and minerals into the diet. Adding fibrous vegetables to meals help to bulk the meal out and also help the individual feel more ‘full’.

    It is important to attain vitamins and minerals within the diet as they play an important role in keeping the immune system healthy, fighting off illnesses and also fibre is important as it aids the digestive system.

    If fruit and vegetables are not included within the diet, then a supplement (multivitamin) is a very good inclusion.


    One of the many ways people in society these days, try to relax, is by having a drink of alcohol, be it beer, wine, or spirits. However, it is becoming increasingly popular to binge on alcohol, rather than have 1-2 drinks during the week. Alcohol leads to dehydration within the body, which for an athlete is detrimental to their performance.

    Alcohol has been shown to be one of few substances which can directly lay down adipose tissue to the stomach area. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram, which is only 2 calories less than fats, therefore, it is easy to see that if a binge takes place, a lot of calories are consumed.

    Other complications of alcohol consumption for an athlete can include –

    • Reduction in fat burning until the alcohol has been eliminated from the body
    • Lower growth hormone production
    • Lower testosterone levels
    • A rise in estrogen levels

    If you must have a drink during the week, limit it to 1-2 drinks, possibly as a treat at the weekend, however, curtail the drinking at that point as the above highlights the negative effect alcohol has on the body.

    Dispelling a few common myths –

    • There is no cut off time to eat.

    Ignore information that tells you to starve yourself after 6pm as the consumed food will just be stored as fat. There is no cut off time for food, and you can eat up until going to bed if your diet is in check and you have met the daily requirements for yourself.

    • Do not eat carbs after 6pm

    Again, another myth coming from that eating carbohydrates after 6pm will lead to fat gain. Carbohydrates are important within the diet, especially for athletes. If the athlete is to train late at night, they would still need the replenishment gained from carbohydrate, as they would if they trained earlier in the day. Eat your carbohydrates after training, no matter if it is after 6pm.

    • Do not mix protein and carbs in the same meal

    I do not personally know where this notion came from, however, eating protein and carbohydrates within the same meal is optimal for a slower release of the nutrients within that meal. It also helps to make more of a meal for the individual. Mix your protein and carbohydrate sources, it is fine.

    • There are negative calorie foods

    The notion behind this myth is that whilst consuming and digesting foods (namely vegetables), your body will utilise more calories than it is actually ingesting, therefore there will be a lean towards the body utilizing more calories than it is ingesting. However, this is not correct and I do not advise eating kilos upon kilos of vegetables in order to try it out.

    • The body cannot utilise more than 30g of protein in 1 meal

    Ok, the protein intake from individual to individual is going to differ depending on lifestyle, activity, muscle mass, overall mass, etc… A very large bodybuilder is going to need more protein in one sitting than someone who does not train and is sedentary. Of course, there will be a cut off point, but to suggest that is 30g per meal, is foolish and is dependant upon the individual.

    Some very easy changes to make to your diet, from which you should observe a noticeable difference…

    • Instead of chips use a different carbohydrate source such as pasta, rice, cous cous, etc…

    • Substitute burgers for a different, healthier form of protein such as steak, chicken, turkey, fish, etc…

    • Or perhaps buy some lean mince from a supermarket or local butcher, and make your own, healthy version of burgers.

    • Instead of eating fats such as chocolate bars, snack on plain & un-salted nuts such as almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts (however, bear in mind that healthy fats do contain a lot of calories so they can still add up, a handful at a time is fine).

    • If you like to eat ice cream, then replace higher fat ice cream with a lower calorie alternative such as Skinny Cow Ice Cream.

    • Instead of snacking on crisps, try rice cakes, they are a nice alternative.

    • When cooking, if you use a lot of oil, why not grill your food or choose a low-calorie spray oil which are available in most supermarkets.

    • Ensure that fibre rich vegetables are within the diet, such as spinach, broccoli, etc… Eating vegetables such as the fore-mentioned are an excellent choice when you eat meals, as the fibre within the product, helps to keep you satiated and less hungry.

    • Ensure that water intake is also kept high. There is no set amount to drink, but a pint of water with each meal is a great way to ensure adequate hydration.

    • If you drink high calorie fizzy drinks, substitute these with their lower-calorie option. Flavoured water is sometimes a great way to curb sugar cravings (however, some flavoured water can contain a lot of calories due to the carbohydrates within them, in the form of sugar).

    • If you like Indian food, why not buy some fresh chicken breasts and some flavouring or spices such as tikka flavour, and make your own healthy, yet tasty meal.

    • If on a night out, try not to eat a kebabs and such like at the end of the night, especially when it is your last meal before bed time.

    • A very important aspect is be careful with foods which are labeled ‘Low Fat’, these are often loaded with sugar, to enhance the taste following the reduction in fat content. A fat source in conjunction with sugar-based foods, primes the body to store more fat, as insulin will be high.

    Insulin is the human storage hormone, therefore when insulin is high, there is more potential for fat storage.

    • Always plan ahead, if you are going somewhere, then take healthy options with you to eat. Fail to prepare, then prepare to fail. Don’t be stuck in a situation where you are forced to eat something unhealthy simply because you haven’t prepared in advance.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Home:Reading Uni. HomeHome:Suffolk


    Excellent post Gaz.
    We're all concerned with making sure our horses are on the best possible weightloss whilst still maintaining nutrients .... but we never do things properly to ourselves
    Only when things do not interest one, can one give a really unbiased opinion; no doubt the reason why an unbiased opinion is absolutely valueless.

  3. #3


    Very informative Gaz - thank you
    I open my eyes to the wonder of being. Delighted in the way things turn out, amazed at the beauty of it all. I am happy.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Chelmsford, essex


    Well done Mr, loads of great info there

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    North Yorkshire


    Good sensible advice Gaz, very useful.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Herts/Essex boarder


    Thanks for that Gaz

  7. #7


    mmmmm steak...

    Veyr informative, cheers Gaz. Does Guinness count as a protein!?!

  8. #8


    I've saved this - thanks!
    Horses are for life not just for riding

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2009


    As i'm now back off hols (yes! I've been off the board for 10 whole days if anyone noticed?! ) and don't need a fad diet, i've come back with a new and slightly unachievable target!! I have got just under 10 months to get in the shape i want to be for my wedding. That shape looks something like Britney on the 'Slave for You' video! (They only had a music channel or sports channel in English in our room!). I'm not fat but have decided that i want toned muscle definition.

    So Gaz - achievable or not for a meer 'normo' like me??! Or can people only achieve that kind of bod by being a celebrity who works out for about 6 hours a day?

    As of tomorrow i'm ditching the booze, and going on a HEALTHY diet! Gonna start taking the dogs running with me, sure they'll enjoy it far more than me! And start doing stomach crunches everyday. And my other aim for the year is to be able to do a press up - i'm so pathetic i can't even manage one!!!

    Here's to torture!!!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2009


    Fabulous thread Gaz!!!

    Though it was great reading!!!

    Nikki xxxx

    Listen, smile, agree and then do whatever the hell you were going to do anyway.


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