How The Athlete's Fix Works: A 3-Step Program

In The Athlete’s Fix, registered dietitian Pip Taylor will help you find your problem foods—and the foods that make you feel and perform your best. The Athlete’s Fix offers a sensible, 3-step program to identify food intolerances, navigate popular special diets, and develop your own customized clean diet that will support better health and performance.

So how does The Athlete’s Fix work?

1. First, you’ll clean up your diet by adopting The Athlete’s Fix Base Functional Diet. On the Base Functional Diet, you’ll avoid common problem foods, inflammatory foods, food ingredients, food chemicals, and habits that can trigger food sensitivity symptoms or make food intolerances worse. During your time using the Base Functional Diet, you will reduce your overall levels of inflammation, heal any damage to your gut, reduce your chronic load of food-related allergens, and return gradually to a base state. Don’t think of the Base Functional Diet as a cleanse, which it is not. Think of it instead as a grace period to allow your body a much-needed break from the irritants that are causing your reactions to food. Most people begin feeling better in just a few days. The Athlete’s Fix offers 50 recipes to support the Base Functional Diet.

2. Second, you’ll identify other problem foods like FODMAPs and food chemicals. If you’re sensitive to these problem foods, it will take your body longer to reset itself as they clear from your system. The Athlete’s Fix shares the protocol for testing your sensitivity to these common allergens.

3. Third, you’ll begin reintroducing foods and observing your reactions to them. Your food journal will help identify the specific foods, food ingredients, food chemicals, and habits that trigger your food intolerance symptoms.

When  you’re done, you’ll have created your own personalized diet that is free of those problem foods. Every few years or after significant changes to diet or lifestyle, you may repeat The Athlete’s Fix program to identify new problem foods or to notice that old problem foods don’t bother you as much as they once did.

My new book The Athlete’s Fix will help you find your problem foods—and the foods that make you feel and perform your best. The Athlete's Fix offers a sensible, three-step program to identify food intolerances, navigate popular special diets, and develop your own customized clean diet that will support better health and performance.

Find The Athlete’s Fix in bookstores; bike, run, and tri shops; and online from VeloPress, Pip Taylor (Australian orders, please), Fishpond Australia, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo, and your local independent bookseller.

What Foods Should Athletes Avoid? What Foods Should Athletes Eat?

When it comes to nutrition, mixed messages and confusion often go hand in hand.

It’s funny that we have such a hard time knowing what exactly we should or shouldn’t be eating, since it’s something we all do multiple times a day. An athlete’s confusion over food is no different. It’s widely recognized that good nutrition is an integral part of any training program and essential for helping you perform at your best, but there seems to be a lack of understanding about just what makes a good athletic diet, in addition to what makes a healthy diet generally.


The fix for athletes—and for everyone else, for that matter—is to eat as wide a variety of beneficial foods as possible while avoiding or minimizing foods that have a negative impact on health, performance, or both.

Too many diets aggressively eliminate foods as a one-size-fits-all solution to better health. It’s common to experience positive results from changing up your diet in this way, though you will not know exactly why the change is working. You might benefit even more by reintroducing some of those restricted foods to maximize variety in your diet.

I believe that there is little point in eliminating foods without reason. Food, like life, is to be enjoyed. By the same token, you want to ensure that the foods you do eat are positively adding to your ability to play, train, or race to your best ability while also supporting a long and healthy life. To identify the foods that could be to blame for the issues you face, you will need to take a more careful approach.

A key component to any healthy diet is being able to enjoy food. Far more than simply sustaining life, food is social, and it is meant to be enjoyed. Customs, traditions, and connectivity to others are all wrapped up in growing, preparing, and eating food. The extent to which we enjoy food and the rituals around it is also important to health. After all, you can’t have a healthy body without a healthy mind. And there is no point in living a long, healthy life if it is not enjoyable too. Eating is something we need to do every day, multiple times throughout the day. I love food and I want to help you make your experience with food truly enjoyable, regardless of what food intolerances or sensitivities you bring to the table.

The Athlete’s Fix is designed to help you become aware of your own food intolerances, be confident in making healthy food choices, and eat the foods that are optimal for you. Once you find your best diet, better health and performance are within reach.

My new book The Athlete’s Fix will help you find your problem foods—and the foods that make you feel and perform your best. The Athlete's Fix offers a sensible, three-step program to identify food intolerances, navigate popular special diets, and develop your own customized clean diet that will support better health and performance.

Find The Athlete’s Fix in bookstores; bike, run, and tri shops; and online from VeloPress, Pip Taylor (Australian orders, please), Fishpond Australia, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo, and your local independent bookseller.


What's Inside The Athlete's Fix

My new book The Athlete’s Fix will help you find your problem foods—and the foods that make you feel and perform your best. The Athlete’s Fix offers a sensible, 3-step program to identify food intolerances, navigate popular special diets, and develop your own customized clean diet that will support better health and performance.

Endurance sports stress the body, often worsening mild food intolerances and causing symptoms like GI distress, food cravings, and headaches. Many athletes aggressively eliminate foods as a one-size-fits-all solution to feel better. These special diets sometimes bring short-term improvements, but they are difficult to maintain and often leave athletes undernourished and underperforming.

The Athlete’s Fix offers a smarter, fine-tuned approach.

My book will show you how you will benefit most from a diet full of a wide variety of foods. You’ll improve your daily diet, cut out common irritants, then add back foods until you feel great enjoying your own, personalized clean diet. The Athlete’s Fix will help you isolate and identify your food intolerances while enabling you to eat a healthy variety of foods.

The Athlete’s Fix examines hot issues for athletes like:

  • Celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and gluten free diets
  • Lactose intolerance
  • FODMAPs and specific carbohydrate intolerances, including fructose
  • Reactions to food chemicals such as salicylates, amines, and glutamates
  • Inflammatory foods
  • Food sensitivity testing and elimination diets
  • Popular diet programs like Paleo, Whole30, Dukan, Mediterranean, and Dash
  • Vegetarian, vegan, and raw food diets

GI issues, food cravings, headaches, brain fog, poor sleep, slow recovery from workouts—these can be more than symptoms of a tough workout. They might be caused by the foods you eat. Feel better–perform better—with The Athlete’s Fix.

Take a look at the book’s table of contents:

Introduction

The Problem of Food Intolerance
Where the Problem Starts
Understanding Food Intolerances
Athletes & Food Intolerance
Commit to Finding Your Best Foods

Fixing Your Diet
Avoid the Unhealthy Foods that Cause Inflammation
Get Your Fill of Healthy Foods
Vegan & Vegetarian Diets
Target Common Intolerances & Sensitivities
Other Types of Intolerance
Testing for Food Intolerance

Identifying Your Intolerances
Getting Started
Step 1: Adopt a Base Functional Diet
Step 2: Identify Any Other Problematic Foods
Step 3: Reintroduce Foods
Step 4: Repeat As Needed

Eating for Performance
Carbohydrates Are Vital to Performance
Fat Plays a Crucial Role
Why Athletes Need Protein
Multivitamins & Supplements
A Smart Approach to Sports Foods
Eating Is Not a Numbers Game

Eating Well for Life
How to Save Money on Healthy Foods
Time-saving Tips to Get You Into the Kitchen
How to Stay the Course on the Base Functional Diet and Beyond
Other Tips for a Lifestyle of Healthy Eating

Recipes for the Base Functional Diet
Breakfast (13 recipes)
Lunch & Dinner (16 recipes)
Sweets & Treats (7 recipes)
Sports Foods (6 recipes)
Snacks (4 recipes)
*All 46 Base Functional Diet recipes are free of gluten, grains (except rice), soy, legumes, dairy, sugar, additives, and preservatives.

Recipe Index
Food Diary Template
Notes
Index
About the Author

My new book The Athlete’s Fix will help you find your problem foods—and the foods that make you feel and perform your best. The Athlete's Fix offers a sensible, three-step program to identify food intolerances, navigate popular special diets, and develop your own customized clean diet that will support better health and performance.

Find The Athlete’s Fix in bookstores; bike, run, and tri shops; and online from VeloPress, Pip Taylor (Australian orders, please), Fishpond Australia, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo, and your local independent bookseller.

How to Design Your Own Unique Diet

We don’t need to get too caught up on what it means to have a food allergy, an intolerance, or a sensitivity. Let’s simply say that you have an intolerance for a specific food if you feel better and notice a decrease in symptoms when you avoid it. (Take The Athlete's Fix Food Intolerance Symptoms Quiz.)

You do not need scientific reasoning, a test, or a diagnosis to make this judgment. If you feel better after eliminating a specific food, you don’t need a doctor, nutritionist, or lab technician to confirm your findings. It’s more important for you to simply avoid those problem foods than to fully understand the scientific reasoning for why they don’t agree with you.

Remember also that no one food will be mandatory for you to meet your nutritional goals. History has demonstrated that humans are very good at surviving and thriving on very different diets.

Just as your training plan will be different to that of your training partner, so too your diet will be unique to you. The Athlete’s Fix will guide you through the process of choosing those foods that are best for you and eliminating those that cause problems for you. You’ll create your own, unique diet. Here's the overview:

1. First, you’ll clean up your diet by adopting The Athlete’s Fix Base Functional Diet.

2. Second, you’ll identify other problem foods like FODMAPs and food chemicals.

3. Third, you’ll begin reintroducing foods and observing your reactions to them.

Visit again soon for more on The Athlete’s Fix program.

My new book The Athlete’s Fix will help you find your problem foods—and the foods that make you feel and perform your best. The Athlete's Fix offers a sensible, three-step program to identify food intolerances, navigate popular special diets, and develop your own customized clean diet that will support better health and performance.

Find The Athlete’s Fix in bookstores; bike, run, and tri shops; and online from VeloPress, Pip Taylor (Australian orders, please), Fishpond Australia, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo, and your local independent bookseller.


2 July 2015: Three things I am loving in the kitchen right now

The things I love change by the seasons, and my whim. A few weeks ago it was all about the quince. And eggs. And green smoothies. All of these are still making welcome appearances in my kitchen and at the table, but this week there are three special Bs. What are your current loves?

1.     Banana flour – a more recent revelation for me. More on this special  and versatile flour, the health benefits and how to use, plus a recipe coming soon…..

2.     Beef cheeks – need I say more. Slow (and easy) cooking, winter and melt in your mouth beef. Love love.

3.     Bacon – always makes an appearance in this house and makes almost anything taste better... and improves most days (and moods). Might even be my 2 year olds favourite food.

The Athlete's Fix Food Intolerance Symptoms Quiz

Do you have a food intolerance? Take The Athlete’s Fix Symptoms Quiz to get started.

Food intolerances can produce a wide array of symptoms in different individuals, which can sometimes make them hard to pick up on. The timing can also be confusing. While it might be easy to relate to a reaction that occurs immediately after eating a food and that after several occurrences you clearly get the picture that that food is linked to your symptoms, in most cases symptoms are delayed. In other words you may not see any effects from a food intolerance for many hours or perhaps even days from ingesting that particular food. Further confusing the matter is that some intolerances are to specific proteins or carbohydrates such as lactose in dairy foods or gluten found in wheat, barley, rye and various other grains.

Symptoms of food intolerances can range from mild to severe and especially on the mild end can be either easy for an individual to ignore or easy for a health professional to dismiss. Frustratingly too there are no clear and definitive tests for most food intolerances so it really does come down to individual perception as well as personal involvement in an elimination style diet to try and ‘weed’ out the food culprits. While this is not necessarily an easy process it is one that is definitely worthwhile and also one in which you have the power.


To figure out if you might have a food intolerance first consider the symptoms below. These are really only a snapshot – you may well experience something not on this list. Many of these are quite generalized and cross over with many many other conditions. Discuss with your doctor whether there could be anything more serious you need to investigate but otherwise you can start the process of trying to figure out if your reactions could be related to the food you are eating. Tracking food eaten and symptoms is critical for this process.

Symptoms of food intolerances may include:

  • Body weight: Unexplained weight gain/loss or inability to lose weight
  • Cravings: Constant hunger, excessive thirst, food cravings
  • Headaches and migraines, dizziness
  • Itchiness and rashes: Itchy skin, hives, or rashes; eczema; acne; mouth ulcers; sore, itchy, puffy, watering, or burning eyes
  • Daily or common GI issues: Stomach pain or upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, bloating, constipation
  • Race day GI distress
  • Body composition: Difficulty adding lean muscle or developing power and strength
  • Race performance not meeting expectations
  • Training: Do you plan bathroom breaks into your workouts and training routes?
  • Recovery: Slower recovery times from workouts
  • Illness/Injury: Do you often miss workouts due to frequent illness or nagging injuries?
  • Respiratory: Asthma, breathing difficulties, persistent cough
  • Trouble resting: Fatigue, lethargy, insomnia, sleep disturbances
  • Aches/pains: Aching muscles and joints
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Low mood: Depression, anxiety, poor self-image
  • Bad mood: Irritability, mood swings, anger, and/or behavioral problems
  • Focus: Hyperactivity, lack of focus
  • Haziness: Brain fog, confusion, poor concentration
  • Fear: Panic attacks and phobias

My new book The Athlete’s Fix will help you find your problem foods—and the foods that make you feel and perform your best. The Athlete's Fix offers a sensible, three-step program to identify food intolerances, navigate popular special diets, and develop your own customized clean diet that will support better health and performance.

Find The Athlete’s Fix in bookstores; bike, run, and tri shops; and online from VeloPress, Pip Taylor (Australian orders, please), Fishpond Australia, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo, and your local independent bookseller.


Take a Look at Your Diet to Solve Unexplainable Health Issues

When a fit and healthy person is facing ongoing problems that the medical world can’t explain, it’s time to take a hard look at diet.

Throughout my career as a professional athlete, eating well has been key to my performance.

My diet has always been composed of healthy foods, and for most of my life I have stuck to a healthy balance of the widely recommended low-fat foods, including grains, pasta, couscous, whole-grain bread, and tortillas, as well as lots of fruits and vegetables, fish, meats, and nuts. I ate very few processed or packaged foods, in part because I have always enjoyed cooking from scratch and shopping at farmers markets.

Despite my best efforts to maintain a healthy diet and compete professionally, several years ago I began experiencing problems. My fitness and preparation were as good as they had ever been, but I found myself not feeling as good come race day. I was experiencing bloating, greater water retention—giving me a heavy, puffy feeling—increased lethargy, and shortness of breath. There was no reasonable explanation, at least in my mind—my fitness, health, and mental preparation were good going into the races. Per sports nutrition recommendations, I did change up my healthy, clean diet in the days leading up to a race by eating less fiber and fat to reduce the potential for gastrointestinal issues. Instead, I ate more refined carbohydrates: sweets, breads, and sugared sports drinks.

Because the most acute problems were happening when I raced, I figured they might be related to the carbo-loading I was doing prior to race day—which was often heavy on gluten-containing breads or cereals. So I cut gluten out of my pre-race diet.

Right away, I felt like I could breathe better on race day—it was somehow easier.

Because of the improvement, I didn’t see a need to make additional changes to my daily diet; I simply focused on eliminating bread, pasta, and wheatbased cereals. I still ate some packaged foods with trace amounts of gluten, but I wasn’t overly strict. In other words, I was confident I did not have celiac disease but understood that a low-gluten diet seemed to work better for me. As time went on, I continued to notice a difference, although it wasn’t as pronounced as it had been at first. The difficult breathing episodes seemed to abate, but my on-again, off-again habits were bringing new issues to my attention. If racing was going to be my livelihood and profession, I knew I needed to figure out exactly which foods were leading to setbacks.

I began researching food intolerances and their effects on the body, eliminating specific foods in a more conscientious way, and taking note of the different impacts those dietary adjustments had on my body, mind, and athletic performance. This wasn’t an entirely random process, as I drew on my scientific nutritional education and knowledge in combination with personal experience. By strictly avoiding all inflammatory foods and my own identified “trigger foods,” such as gluten and grains, and by reducing my reliance on carbohydrate-heavy foods, I found that my body weight was easier to maintain. The headaches I had endured for years lifted, along with the brain fog, which did wonders for my mood and encouraged me to continue to make better food choices. I focused more on proteins such as fish, poultry, and meats and included plenty of healthy natural fats along with an abundance of vegetables and fruits. The improvements were obvious.

To my surprise, I didn’t miss eating grains, and I found myself to be less hungry in general. I felt physically and mentally strong when I ate the right foods.

Looking back, I believe there were other signs of my food intolerances and sensitivities, starting with those headaches I had endured for years. I assumed everyone experienced a headache at some level from time to time, so unless the severity ramped up, headaches really didn’t bother me. At one point they were so frequent, almost constant, that I couldn’t remember not having one. Because I tend to hold tension in my neck and shoulders, tightness through these areas would cause my headaches to worsen. But even with massage, stretching, physical therapy, and strict attention to postural habits, the headaches persisted. I had my eyes checked, my hearing and balance checked; I even had some other scans and tests done just to make sure the headaches weren’t the result of some other medical issue, but all the results came back showing nothing was wrong.

Despite relatively low running mileage, I suffered from multiple stress fractures. As I met with success on the track, I took a more conscientiously focused approach to my training, but the stress fractures only increased. The problem persisted as I started competing in triathlon, despite no identifiable cause.

I have always had access to extremely good doctors, but they had no satisfactory explanation for my stress fractures, iron deficiencies, or any of my other symptoms. When a fit and healthy person is facing ongoing problems that the medical world can’t explain, it’s time to take a hard look at diet.

For me, this exploratory journey became both personal and professional. Through formal study, including a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics, as well as credentials in sports nutrition and dietetics, research, and experience working with others, I have found that changes in diet can have profound effects on health as well as performance. I have also discovered that sometimes the results of dietary changes can’t be confirmed through definitive tests. But the proof really lies in the individual’s response, whether it is a significant change in body weight and composition, reduction or complete elimination of long-term troubling symptoms, or the results chalked up on race day.

My new book The Athlete’s Fix will help you find your problem foods—and the foods that make you feel and perform your best. The Athlete's Fix offers a sensible, three-step program to identify food intolerances, navigate popular special diets, and develop your own customized clean diet that will support better health and performance.

Find The Athlete’s Fix in bookstores; bike, run, and tri shops; and online from VeloPress, Pip Taylor (Australian orders, please), Fishpond Australia, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo, and your local independent bookseller.

Feel Better, Perform Better with The Athlete's Fix

Gut issues, headaches, food cravings—these can be more than symptoms of a tough workout.

They might be caused by the foods you eat. My new book The Athlete’s Fix will help you find your allergy foods—and the foods that make you feel and perform best.

Dietitian Pip Taylor offers a smart, three-step program to help you fuel workouts while isolating specific problem foods or ingredients. You’ll improve your diet, cut out common allergens, then add back foods until you feel great enjoying your own personalized clean diet.

Feel better—perform better—with The Athlete’s Fix.

Find The Athlete’s Fix in bookstores; bike, run, and tri shops; and online from VeloPress, Pip Taylor (Australian orders, please), Fishpond Australia, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo, and your local independent bookseller.

7 June: What's within - the importance of bacteria

As some readers may have guessed I am fascinated by the microbiome  - the complex community of bacteria residing in our guts. It really is an area of research that has exploded in recent years and I think we are about to see some really interesting findings and applications relating to a diverse range of health issues emerge. Recently I have read studies linking our diversity and numbers of bacteria to everything from weight and obesity through to risk of depression, anxiety, immunity, gut issues and even dictating what foods we subconsciously choose to eat. They even influence how many calories we glean from that food eaten (hence part of the link with weight and obesity).

While to a certain extent our bacteria are determined by genetics and circumstances surrounding our birth – yep if you are a mother what you eat affects your child (either living or yet to be conceived) and in turn your own gut bacteria are determined by what your own mother and her mother and her mother ate. However nutrition is also certainly a key influencer in the number and species of bacteria that flourish in our guts and we are seeing that even short term changes can have some significant effects. This should give heart to many – rather than leave our entire future and health to that of genetics it is always nice to know that what we do in our own lives can exert influence on the direction of our health. That gives weight to our daily decisions and empowers us as individuals to take control of our health through good nutrition and other lifestyle choices.

For those that are interested in this subject here is a link (below) to a recent free access review exploring dietary fibre and gut microbiota. Figure 5 in the article provides a nice visual summary for those short on time to read through the whole piece. And for those really short on time the basic summary is: eat more plant foods – vegetables, fruits and properly prepared legumes are all loved by your gut bacteria. And avoid the modern traps of highly refined, high sugar and fat diets. Surprise surprise.

Simpson, H. L., and B. J. Campbell. "Review article: dietary fibre–microbiota interactions." Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics (2015).

 

28th May 2015: Eating well when time poor

I love to cook. More than that though I love to eat. Really love to eat. Good food anyway. And back in the day (ie pre-baby) when I had time in between training (which let's be honest even for a busy athlete is more than ample) and work/study I could easily spend hours planning, shopping and cooking. I would also spend hours reading cooking books and looking at the latest in my cooking magazine subscriptions. Now it seems that time is gone. I still love to cook and I still love to eat. And the importance of there being really good food on the table and in the fridge at all times of day has if anything increased. After all I am a firm believer that good food is a critical part of development and good health and there is no greater time than the first few years of life (including those 9 months tucked away in my tummy). But the luxury of time is certainly gone.

And so I have had to be more creative – or less so depending on how you look at it. I have come up with ways to ensure that I and my family are well fed. That doesn’t mean there are short cuts in the form of prepared meals, half prepped meals, snacks or frozen meals. I cook from scratch, always. I just think that I can do a better job in my own kitchen than what can be bought. This is not to cast a negative shadow on all bought options - I know some emerging companies are really trying to bridge the gap and doing a good job and there are many thankful parents. But yes, I am proud of that fact that at 2 my daughter has never had any sort of commercial baby or toddler food of any sort. Really its honestly not that hard - if you cook for yourself then its really easy to extend this to one more tiny little mouth, ben if there are some special requirements in terms of content, texture, timing.
So what do I do?

 

-       Make use of home delivery. This is a true time and sanity saver. I can not imagine doing a supermarket shop with a newborn or a toddler. Instead a nice man delivers right to my kitchen for less than the cost of what it would be to drive to the actual store.

 

-       Make use of home delivery. Not a typo – a different type of home delivery. The sort straight from the markets – fresh organic fruit and veg. I don’t but these from the supermarket but buy locally. Yep a bit more expensive but worth it when I can not get to the weekly markets. Maybe I am spoiled that this exists where I live, but reality says in most places these days there is some type of service geared around time efficiency.

-       Shop local – for everything else on a daily basis I pick up locally – a walk from my front door. With young kids it becomes an activity too – and with a curious toddler one that can take a very long time. But as the saying goes, Two birds.

-       Cook slow. Or fast. Depending on the weather and the day I cook either very slow – taking advantage of cuts of meat that can sit in the oven untended for hours and hours. And are unfussy as to exactly how many hours. Or I cook quickly – flash fried fish, salads, quick omelets and frittatas.

-       Simple. We eat really well in this house but I don’t often take the time to really test out complicated new recipes. Instead I am confident and competent enough in the kitchen to constantly vary what we are eating by varying cooking technique, ingredients, herbs, spices. Sometimes (often actually) I can start to cook without actually having a firm plan of the endpoint. But it works out – mainly thanks to good ingredients to start with. And just knowing a few of the basics about cooking. Once you know how to cook a few things you can use these skills to cook almost anything. Or at least try.

-       No special baby food. Don’t ever cook different meals for kids and adults. Kids eat more than we give them credit for and are curious and exploratory eaters.True, sometimes those efforts will end up spat out on the floor, or as bits that need to cleaned off the wall. But on the whole they will prefer to eat what you are eating anyway - especially if its actually off your plate as opposed to their own.

-       Cook lots. Having leftovers is critical. They make the fastest snacks, breakfasts, next day meals as is or turned into something else. I could not survive without leftovers.

-       Mental prep. This might sound a little silly, but sometimes the mental approach really makes a difference. Don’t view cooking as a chore or something that takes time. Even though it can feel like both at times, try and reframe it to an investment (a time (and cost) saver in the health department). And even better if it can act as a mini-escape – some time alone with the veggies and pots. Or as your kids get older, again its a great activity to have them join in and get interested in food.

 So would this approach work for you? Maybe...but that likely depends on circumstance, location, willingness - as well as whether you like getting into the kitchen! What I can say is that the return on investment is there when it comes to your (and your family's) health to get organised with food.  And to do the best you can with what you have availble to you. Let me know what tips and tricks you employ at home.

21 May 2015: Bad science and bandwagons

I have written before here on my blog about how divided and vitriolic the nutrition world can be. It seems that there are those who are passionate to the point of being near zealots in pushing one band-wagon or another. And there are a lot of band-wagons to push.

I recently attended a dietitians conference where on more than one occasion the word Paleo was almost spat out it was mentioned with such disgust. The main beef these speakers had was that of ‘poor science’ and that the diet could not possibly be healthy seeing as our Paleolithic ancestors only had an average life span of 23. (Do not quote me on the actual accuracy of that figure – this is merely a repetition of what we as the audience were told as fact.) It seems many facts were conveniently ignored amongst the sniggers from the majority of the audience. Did we forget that many of our ancestors died in childbirth or infancy – about 1/3 of the total population died in the first few years of life. Only ½ made it to their adult years. But they were not dying of non-communicable chronic diseases – the main killers in today’s world – lifestyle diseases that have a high association with diet. They died of infections, parasites, wars, famines and were at the mercy of the environment. Now we can control our environment, we have doctors and hospitals and medicines that not only keep us alive but prolong our lifespans – even if they are unhealthy towards the end or indeed for many many decades. So no I do not think that comparing lifespans is ‘good science’ or a valid nutritional argument. I do not have an association with the Paleo diet, but I do think that many elements of the basis are fantastic in promoting better nutrition and health. In fact I have issues of my own with some elements of the diet and some of the reasoning/science behind some of the principles. I also know that the Paleo diet today is not replicating what was truly eaten. But again this misses the point – the key is that the diet is one rich in vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, good quality animal proteins, and high quality fats. Which exactly of these foods is a health problem I am not sure.

At this same conference the word Paleo was also used interchangeably for low carb and high fat. Hmmm again I can’t quite see the connection. Sure you could eat high fat on a Paleo diet. But you could also stick to the ‘rules’ eat lots of fruit, loads of tubers and other vegetables, nuts, seeds and in fact have a very high carbohydrate intake. And yet there it was. Poor scientific arguments being used to accuse of poor science. And that is my frustration. Not being pro or anti any particular diet – but merely being open to evidence and not jumping to conclusions simply because they do not meet your own notions or experiences.

To be fair there were a very small number who throughout the conference stated that they also liked many aspects of a Paleo diet. The recognition that such a diet echoes many aspects of the much lauded Meditteranean diet also must be made.

I also read with interest an article this week in the popular press about diet fads. Gluten free was one which was singled out (again). I agree that the term gluten free has in some circles become synonymous with health and that manufactures and marketers have taken advantage of the growing consumer interest to fill our shelves with gluten free products. Never mind that these are often high sugar, high salt, high fat and make use of refined yet gluten free flours. This does not make them healthy. In any diet. Yet the article suggested that gluten free diets are only of benefit to those with celiac disease and that sometimes people feel better when they remove gluten due to other factors. This might be an intolerance to a particular carbohydrate, called fructan, which is found in wheat but also in other foods such as fruits and vegetables. Or it might be due to a food sensitivity to a chemical that might perhaps be found in the particular gluten containing products they had previously being eating. So clearly the removal or reduction in these problem food will see a reduction in their symptoms. None of this I disagree with. But what I have an issue with is the dismissal of the approach to eliminate gluten products. If this works for an individual and they feel better then what is wrong with that? If by removing gluten grains they are lowering their exposure to the offending carbohydrate or food chemical without cutting out other fruits and vegetables, which inarguably add more nutritionally to their diet than the grain products – then where is the issues? I do not think it is something that as dietitians or nutritionists that we need or should try and steer them away from. The bottom line is that the individual is the only one who can really tell how they are responding to foods and dietary patterns. If they feel better and are generally meeting nutritional requirements then why do we have to try and dissuade them from their approach because it does not meet either our own philosophy or any arbitrary guidelines?

I think the truth is that we do not yet know enough about food, nutrition or the complex interactions within our body to make definitive ‘rules’. Be flexible. Use common sense – natural is without doubt better. But don’t be rigid or closed to other alternatives, new research and ideas.

 

7 May 2015: The Athletes Fix - book extract now available

It's finally here!! I am really excited and proud that my book that I have been working on for quite some time (read: ages!) will finally be out in the coming weeks. Published by Velopress it has been quite a process - certainly challenging but the end result is something that I think many people will find enjoyable as well as helpful. And a sneak peak is available NOW via the link below. Right now I am having a couple of quiet days in a farm stay with my family - forced to be even quieter as there has been virtually no reception! But I will also have this PDF available here on my website and blog in the next day along with some other info and even some specials for purchasing coming soon. http://www.velopress.com/books/athletes-fix/

3 May 2015: AIS musings

I am currently down at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) getting the low down on the latest in the sports nutrition research space. It has been a strange few days on a couple of fronts – good, challenging and also a little weird.

First the good – there are some great minds here and it has been a fantastic opportunity to see some of the research, interventions and protocols being used in some of the elite programs and individual athletes currently. It has also highlighted how many different niches there when it comes to nutrition and performance and also how many questions that remain unanswered and how much we are yet to fully understand. In particular, and perhaps of particular interest to me one such area is that of gut health, microbiota and how this plays into athletic performance. As well as how these implications then might affect dietary goals and interventions. This is an important area that I would love to explore more but really we are just starting to scratch the surface (both in terms of health as well as in a sporting context).

Aside form the course presenters themselves there are also some great people here with extremely varied backgrounds. While I may not agree with or practice many of the usual dietetic or even sports dietetic recommendations, it is always beneficial and interesting to appreciate individual perspectives and background and what they can bring to the table of understanding. Especially as nutrition is an area that we have much to learn, I think anytime there can be collaboration and sharing of ideas, especially if they are disparate and diverse according to backgrounds and beliefs then I think progress can be made.

The challenging – this will be the longest I have been away from my little girl. She turned 2 just weeks ago and previous to this I had been away from her for just over 48 hours. However the challenge does not seem to be so much of a two way street. Judging by my FaceTime calls she is barely missing me at all and is having so much fun staying with my parents (and her daddy) with a packed social schedule of activities, that there is probably no time to consider my absence! While it is nice to be missed, I am actually happy that she doesn’t seem to miss me – it makes being away easier for me but also makes me confident that I have helped her be an independent well adjusted little being who has no doubt that I will in fact return soon.

The weird – being back at the AIS in Canberra and staying in the athletes ‘resi’ block. Never a fan as an athlete here on camp, it is even stranger returning to the cell like rooms with the bathrooms outside for a course and being heavily pregnant too. It is a bit nostalgic though – back then my days were filled with hard training session and lots of testing. Now my days are filled with long days of sitting, including learning about some of those tests that I have so frequently undergone as an athletes. Only now the tables are turned. There have been some changes to the facilities and campus, but much is the same. The old ‘resi’ rooms are the same. The sheets are the same (ie bad), the doors are the same (heavy and noisy) and the key cards the same. Yep the doors still shut behind you and if you have forgotten to take your key when ducking out to the bathroom then a call to security is necessary to get back in.  And of course this always happens when in a hurry. I also don’t think (scarily) that much has changed in the dining hall. The location has changed but the food seems remarkably the same. And disappointingly seems to be focused around low fat as a focus. Who makes scrambled eggs with skim milk????? Please add in some butter and cream. 

14 January 2015: Pills not always the simple solution

You frequently see ads for antacids on TV – you know the ones that generally feature a fire in the gut and a burning throat. The person always seems so unhappy and in so much pain. They also usually briefly show them eating a really crappy meal, the person is often overweight or unhealthy looking. And yet there is always a happy solution – a pill. All is resolved and the person can seemingly eat what they want and live happily ever after as long as they continue to buy these magic pills. These ads have always disturbed me. It seems a false economy where anything can be resolved by a pill. It would be perhaps great if that were true and if that pill, or the associated effects of taking the pill, did not have any other spill over effects. But reality tells us that is unlikely. We know that even if reflux is suppressed and the foods you once thought were off the table can now be eaten, the foods and accompanying lifestyle, that are most often associated with reflux are not conducive to optimal health in other regards. In other words just because the pie and cream puff don’t give you reflux because you know take a pill, does not mean that they are benign in the health stakes. Just because your increasing weight and sedentary lifestyle can be negated, at least when it comes to reflux by your medication does not mean that it isn’t costly you dearly somewhere else. To me these medications have always appeared to be band aids – just covering the issue rather than finding out the true cause and trying to do anything to resolve it. I acknowledge that for some reflux is not easily fixed and that medication may always be necessary, I also acknowledge how serious a condition it is and one that deserves to be taken seriously. It just disturbs me that such as serious condition is not always given he proper thought and attention and that it is tok easily glossed over maybe simply because there is a very easy solution. A solution which requires little to not thought or effort on the part of the doctor or patient. So I found it very interesting, yet not surprising to see research demonstrating that these antacids are having implications beyond that of not solving an issue and allowing inadequate habits to continue. It seems that these proton pump inhibitors decrease the numbers and types of bacteria in your gut. Something that we are better appreciating can have serious and far reaching health consequences. In this study, changing bacteria also appeared to put the patients at greater risk of infections like clostridium difficult and pneumonia, and predispose to vitamin deficiencies and linked complications including increased bone fractures. Like anything it just shows that there are always effects – whether at first visible or not – and that simple solutions are not always so simple. The message seems to come back to trying to get yourself in the best health possible through looking after diet and other lifestyle factors. Medication is often needed but needn’t always be the only or best answer.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141125074656.htm

13 January 2015: Bone health, diet and exercise

As an athlete who relies on my body's ability to handle training loads without breaking down, bone health has long been a subject that fascinates and intrigues me. I certainly have had my fair share of stress related bone issues over the years - starting when I was growing rapidly as an teenager and yet not running all that much at all - and right through to present day where post-baby breastfeeding has taken its toll on my bone strength. And I know I am not alone. So I found this article really interesting, comparing our bones and their loading strength to those of our hunter gatherer ancestors. Our bones in comparison are like fragile twigs. The research points to changes in our activity levels as we became more domesticated agricultural societies, rather than directly related to diet so much. I think its really interesting research and adds weight to the need for us all to get up and move more, and especially children and teens as this is when we are accruing peak bone mass. I think that diet is still hugely important and is what allows us to maximise those strength gains.Anyway, enjoy the read.

"Hunter-gatherer past shows our fragile bones result from inactivity since invention of farming"

21 December 2014: Sugar fences

I have a little girl – now 20 months old - and is has been a revelation to me to see how her taste and appetite for food is evolving. She has always been a pretty ‘good eater’ – and by good eater I mean that she is not particularly fussy (as in will eat almost anything) and we are fortunate that she has not displayed or developed any allergies or intolerances, that we know of. But she very clearly has foods she likes more than others and also very clearly has days where she prefers some foods over others. For instance she loves fish and often asks for it, however there are days where served fish she will mostly eat the vegetables that accompany it. On other days the fish will get devoured, along with most of what is on my plate and the same vegetables that got shoveled in with glee the day before, will sit untouched. Sometimes I am surprised by this but I realise I shouldn’t be. I know there are days where I could kill for a juicy steak. And yet other days the thought of that is off-putting. Kids are no different and this desire for certain tastes and control over what they do eat - albeit it very limited seeing as its really the parents making most of these decisions - is exerted early on. It has also been interesting to see her naturally sweet tooth – clearly something as humans we are primed for. Fruit is prized, often requested and can be eaten even when it appears she doesn’t want any more of her savory dish. And often, especially when a new sweet fruit taste is explored you can visibly see her eyes light up in wonder and delight. It is evident that this is an evolutionary drive to seek out sweet tasting foods. And when this sweet food is fruit it poses little problem for most. But this sweet desire is also one of our weakest points. Something that in this day and age, where surrounded by cheap, easily accessible and endless options for sweet treats. It is something that we have to consciously restrict and avoid. And when we do indulge those sweet indulgences also come laden with guilt and often regret and even self loathing. These complex emotions are also behind some of the reasons we seem to have lost our way in terms of being able to feed ourselves properly – ie in a way that sustains not only life but allows us to glean maximum enjoyment and pleasure from life now and into our twilight years. This very drive for sugar is something that is coming under closer scrutiny in the world of scientific research. There have even been studies done mapping our brains response to sugar and comparing this to a hit of cocaine. The addiction response looks scarily similar. Anecdotally we know of people who admit they are addicted to sugar, displaying all the emotions, actions and desperation of those addicted to other less socially acceptable ‘drugs’. The accepted ‘treatment’ for addictions is abstinence – in other words complete avoidance lifelong. And yet when it comes to sugar the more accepted doctrine is that all things in moderation are OK. And this is where things get interesting, and controversial. Counter arguments are along the lines of 'you wouldn’t give a recovering alcoholic an occasional drink and expect them to be OK’. And yet the 'everything in moderation' dogma suggests that the odd cream bun, packet of jelly beans or ice cream is OK. And it might be unless this 'occasional' spirals into an addictive habit that becomes as frequent as weekly, daily or even every meal. Which is why I really really hate that meaningless and unhelpful catch phrase that is thrown around “everything in moderation”. Without wanting to be a fence sitter though, I have to admit that I am somewhere in between. The waters of ‘occasional’ are very muddy. Is once a month occasional? Once a week? A year? Once a day? Who defines this? And surely for each and very one of us the meaning is different? I also think it matters when and how consumption occurs. I think it matters if it is with purpose – are you fuelling during a workout or race? I think it matters if it is in context – is this a special custom, tradition or occasion? After all, these types of traditional and social celebrations provide food for the soul of an entirely different and yet equally important nature than that of just the actual food itself. And I think it matters on an individual basis too - taking into consideration other health factors including mental health. My stance is that we should be limiting and avoiding sugar but at the same time I personally do not see anything wrong with celebrating a special friends birthday with a slice of delicious cake or finshing off your Christmas lunch with a slice of Christmas pudding. And doing so guilt free. The recommendations I make are to make things quality – make sweets and sugared ‘treats’ something out of the norm, not a stand-by regular and where possible make it yourself – I think cooking things yourself makes you realize not only what goes into them, allows you to control the ingredients but that you also enjoy them more too. Savor and enjoy. Life is too short to live in complete denial but it is also too short to live in an unhealthy state that is largely self inflicted by what we feed ourselves. The happy medium is in being able to truly enjoy and appreciate ‘healthy’ foods, appreciate how they make us feel. And then to also be able to appreciate occasional diversions as part of what makes us happy, social humans.