Building from the foundations up

It’s so great to see so many of you back in the gym after the festive season. I know everyone has probably been feeling a little sluggish and desperate to get moving again or even been struck down by the horrid flu that’s making the rounds, finally up and about again after being bed ridden for days.

With that in mind I just wanted to offer some help with how best to set your intentions for your health and fitness this year and how to build a solid foundation on which to make good progress. Sometimes it can feel like people are in a desperate hurry to ‘get back to where they were’ but it’s crucial to remember that health and fitness is a journey and nothing happens overnight.

So where to begin? No, it’s not in the gym – in the kitchen. Have a look at the pyramid below. What we eat is the basis for everything else we do. It’s the molecular foundation for fitness and health. Yes, movement is essential, but if we don’t get nutrition right, our training will always fall short of its potential.

Here are a few tips to get you started….

1. Decide on your goal. Are you trying to lose fat, maintain weight, or gain weight? From there we can work out energy balance, calories in vs calories out. You can easily calculate how many calories you should be consuming based on your height, weight, age, gender and activity level using the Mifflin St Joer Equation. Then it is best to cycle your calories over a 7 day period. This means from the results of your equations add up the total number of calories for the week and make sure you stay within them. So if you’re over on one day, no sweat, just adjust the next day.

2. Next, work out how much protein you need. This is essential. Proteins play key roles in the smooth functioning of every system in the body, but they also help immune function, muscle retention and healthy skin and hair. And on top of all this, they keep you feeling fuller for longer, so can help with weight loss. You should have protein at each meal, but how much? While the offical RDA is currently 0.8g per kg of bodyweight but really that is just too low, especially if you are exercising regularly. My recommendation would be to set protein at 1g-1.2g per kg of bodyweight, or even a little higher, depending on your goal or sport. And to bust a bit of a myth, excessive consumption does not damage your kidneys, so don’t worry about that.

Once you have set your total calories and your protein, carbs and fats can be made up with the rest of your food intake as long as you stick within your calories. But remember these are general recommendations and if you are looking to be more specific it is best to enlist the help of a nutrition expert.

Just to note, this is not an ‘If it fits your macros” IIFYM approach. Be sensible about your choices. Eat mainly plant based foods, include protein and healthy fats. Reduce sugar, processed foods and stay the hell away from anything containing a Trans Fat!

3. Take Vitamin D, out of all of the supplements available on the market the one to take is vitamin D. Research has shown that a very large proportion of the population are Vitamin D deficient. Even rickets is making an appearance again within the young population staying indoors on their computers! Vitamin D is essential for our immune function and bone health. Deficiencies in Vitamin D have been associated with development of Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, IBD and autoimmune disorders. So how much should you take? The current RNI is 400IU’s a day but we could easily consume at least 1000IU’s. The symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency are fatigue, muscle weakness and aching joints. It is always worth getting a blood test to see if you are deficient to then determine individually accurate dosing but taking a daily dose, especially in the winter is highly recommended.

So there you have it, three recommendations on how to get yourself set, to build your training on a solid foundation for the year to come.

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