My back condition which led to my excess level of weight and poor level of fitness triggered my interest in the importance of nutrition and exercise. Over time, whilst achieving my objectives of losing weight, slimming my waistline and lowering body fat, then resulted in the emergence for the improvement of my back health and level of fitness.
Through trial and error of playing with my diet, that I have found a happy medium, which has seen me making continual progression in achieving my aims.
Having the energy to focus, train intensely, and recover adequately are the key constituents to reaching and maintaining a good level of health and fitness. Some of my theories you’ll read into further on may seem a little out of the ordinary. But as with many of my articles I am a firm believer that there is no one diet of routine to suit all individuals.
Everyone is different, have different aims, daily lives, body types, and react differently to certain foods consumed. Here, I will be sharing some of my influences and methods that have resulted in the great strides I have made, and may serve as ideas that can be tested and incorporated in one’s regime.
Over the course of history, technological advancements have been made by the national superpowers that rule the globe. You only need to look at the carnage and the environmental damage that had been caused by nations waging war amongst each other.
Prior to the age of technological warfare, going back centuries where people lived in a classical age, lived warriors carrying swords and shield, whilst carrying a back-pack full of rations for their long journeys to conquer lands far from home.
Strength, speed, co-ordination and endurance were attributes prized upon. When I think of empires that had great dominance and made a major mark upon our history, I think of the Romans, Greeks and the Vikings.
Both the Greeks and Romans originated from the Mediterranean region, and both consumed similar food stuffs due to their environmental location, producing nutritious foods suitable for their climate.
Physically fit and strong, both races would have consumed a good nutritional balance of their foods available to them. Neither knew what sugar was, with honey their considered sweetener, but of course this fast surpasses the poor unhealthy nutrition that today’s processed sugar brings.
The majority foods I purchase straight from supermarket stores mimic the diets of the Greeks and Romans. This consisted of veggies and fruits, such as plums, apricots, dates, figs, cucumbers, and dried fruits were also often consumed, especially raisins.
Grapes, grains, and olive oil were staples of both empires, along with regular consumption of red wine. But foods such as bananas, peanuts and tomatoes were not known to either empire at this time as these originated from the Americas, with first knowledge coming to those in the Iberian Peninsula.
I also eat berries on a daily basis such as strawberries, blackberries and blueberries. Berries were a staple food of the Scandinavian Vikings. Blackberries contain resveratrol, blueberries contain chlorogenic acid, and strawberries a useful source of Vitamin C. A good triple combination of antioxidant, fat metabolism, and immune benefits here.
Protein primarily came from meat and fish, and for some vegetarians and vegans, nuts. The Romans consumed more meat. In comparison the Greeks leant towards fish given their greater coastal access.
My protein sources come from sardines and tuna with olive oil with me being a demi-vegetarian. Nuts I consume include almonds, pine nuts, apricot kernels. Other common nuts available at this time include hazelnuts, chestnuts and walnuts.
All consumed dairy products, though this is something I avoid in food form. And for energy I have oats as my staple form of starchy grain that is low in GI carbohydrates.
Meal plans of the Greeks and Romans were similar both in frequency and time, where breakfast lunch and dinner were consumed, with lunch being quick, light and small in size. Both races also drank red wine. I make sure to have a small glass each night before bed time.
The other foods I incorporate are food staples from the highly feared Aztecs and Incas.
Chia seeds and cacao beans were highly prized sources of healthy fats and slow released energy. Chia was known to improve endurance and hydration of Aztec warriors, with cacao’s stimulant properties used to delay the onset of muscle fatigue of their armies and increase alertness. Cacao is also a great source of anti-oxidants I also eat goldenberries, good for fighting belly fat and another great source of anti-oxidants.
Brazil nuts are my choice for mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacking. They are a great source of selenium which can easily lack in our diets, and is highly nutrient dense packed with healthy fats in both poly and mono unsaturated forms. Two of these nuts are recommended per day, with one single nut being enough to cover the selenium RDA. I also have a scoop of peanut butter in the morning to help fuel my workouts.
My View – If you want to be physically fit, strong, quick, and have great muscular endurance then a diet combining the staple foods of these great ancient races will provide you with the energy to exercise at a great intensity, for a prolonged period of time, whilst recovering adequately for the next day ahead.
I only consume around 3,300 calories each day, but then I sit down all day at a PC screen at work. Romans could consume up to 7,500 calories each day on their quests, where their physical daily activities and demands required of them justified this great caloric intake.
In one of my other articles, I highlighted the importance of digestive health needing to be in a good state, to enable the body to deliver maximum nutrient absorption from food being consumed. Certain foods are also toxic to our digestive system, such as grains and nightshades that contain high levels of phytates and lectins.
On the other side of food consumption, the optimisation of breaking down nutrients for the specific enzymes to be produced and processed within our digestive system is also just as important, both for the health of our gut and for athletic performance.
This has been something I have been testing for a long while, which involves the consumption of one single food, how primal humans first consumed foods. This has a couple of benefits. Food naturally will be consumed slower and properly chewed,, whilst when during this mastication process the specific enzymes required to break down this food stuff are produced with a maximum efficiency.
I gave this example to my hairdresser; if you have several people in for a haircut, would it be efficient to have all customers sat down and having their hair cut simultaneously by one hair dresser?
It would be near impossible to concentrate on each person. The result would be several poor haircuts, which would take longer in duration to complete.
Bringing this theory into eating food, the primal way of living meant humans initially consumed foods that were not processed, nor stored, but eaten at their prime time where the food was at their most nutritious, like an apple straight off a tree. Food choices were also a lot less back then, so you wouldn’t have the option to mix a number of foods to create a dish.
Now when I eat my food, I will consume and chew each food individually. This results in the effective breakdown of food, placing less stress on the digestive system, and maximising absorption of all those valuable nutrients each food contains. Ever since, I have also noticed a great reduction in digestive discomfort.
I stumbled into a theory where consuming dried fruits, fruits, vegetables, protein, and fats in this order was something the Ancient Greeks followed. I can see where this logic may come from, as this would look to break down macronutrients by order of energy being metabolised by the body.
Fruits that are dried will be full of fructose and glucose type of carbohydrates rather than starch. These simple forms of carbs need to be broken down and used as quickly as possible by the body; otherwise they will end up being stored as fat. The fructose element will be quickly stored directly in the liver as fat, and is perhaps a reason why there are studies that recommend on limiting fructose intake.
But for an active individual, fruits are critical for providing energy both instantaneous and stored forms. Consuming these first will mean the energy they provide will be metabolised first, whilst avoiding fruit being fermented and acidifying. If this is consumed further down the meal time, by the time it reaches the intestines it will cause the person to feel bloated, have excess gas, and generally causes digestive discomforts.
My diet actually has no vegetables! I also do not eat food that is warm or reheated for that matter. But defining foods has always been something that has caused great controversy and often end up with a great debate.
For instance a cucumber is considered a fruit. I recently stopped consuming tomatoes, but this is also a fruit and not a vegetable. Whilst I am at it, berries like blueberries blackberries and raspberries are not considered berries!
So this would lead to no surprises now knowing that a banana is in fact a berry, though some also consider it a herb. Although the green banana is considered a vegetable!
I used to consume a “regular” banana at lunch, but after choosing to base my diet on principles above, along with the glycaemic index of bananas varying hugely dependant on how ripe they are (being medium GI), it is hard to have a daily stabilised level of blood sugar when consuming a vegetable such as this.
Grapes are a great alternative and a staple in the Greek and Roman diets. Grapes also fall consistently into the lower GI category. However bananas happen to contain traces of starch in their carbohydrate make up, whereas grapes do not, and contain dextrose.
This would also explain why grapes are good for boosting alertness, just what one may need at lunch.
For highly active individuals, black grapes are the best choice. They contain the largest amounts of resveratrol and other vital nutrients that support a person who expends more energy. Red grapes also contain resveratrol but are less sweet in taste and better for those purely looking to manage their weight.
White grapes are the least nutritious, and do not contain resveratrol. They will however have the lowest GI of the 3 grape types. Often a rule of fruits is the redder and darker they are in colour, the greater their nutritional value. Only one food that comes to mind defies this, but it is not a fruit – chia seeds.
Chia seeds are considered more nutritional when consuming the white seeds. The black are seen as less nutritional. Black seeds however are considered to have more fibre. The white seeds are proven to contain greater amounts of protein.
Another beneficial property of chia seeds is they are classified as an alkalising food. Most nuts consumed are acidic forming. Most foods in our daily diet tend to be acidic, and with an acidic PH level, our bodies will draw from our own calcium deposits to neutralise high acidic levels in our blood. The only nut also considered alkalising is the almond.
I have played around with this other theory of mine at breakfast time. I eat a lot of dried fruit in this meal. I often found at certain points during the morning I would have periods of greater focus, and times when I had less focus. I wondered what would be causing this for me.
I then looked up the GI scores of each of the foods, and then based their consumption from this, with foods higher on the index eaten first. My thinking here, is if I ate these foods based on how they would impact my blood sugar levels and are therefore metabolised first, by having consumption structured in a GI score order, there would be a smoother flow and transition of energy utilisation.
The first time attempting this change, the concentration spikes I previously experienced had diminished, with my workout at the gym that day being the most productive it had ever been. I felt in full control of each repetition and exercise I was doing, concentrating full on each. Only when in a fatigued state was what caused the struggle of producing my final repetitions, and not through a lack of mental focus.
To achieve a consistent flow of energy for performance, my belief is that consuming foods that have a variety of GI scores from high to low, will promote a generally more stable level of energy to be metabolised as a whole.
The amount consumed would also need to be greater with foods lower in GI to prevent energy crashes and insulin spikes. So eat low amounts of high GI foods (such as dates), moderate medium GI (such as raisins), and a high amount of low GI (such as dried apricots).
My View – Don’t slate it, give it a try! My diet is very routined, and I notice differences however slight they may appear to be. I would liken it to food testing, where foods are brought in slowly to determine whether an individual is intolerant to certain foods or types of foods.
Whether there is much science behind my theory here, I don’t know. I am also sure others will also claim that it is also psychological.
Athletes that train regularly are monitored very closely for any performance changes from tiny alterations made in their diet. Just ask Sir Chris Hoy. This is in an attempt to identify any determinants that are hindering or a cause for the poorer performances, and also note what has led to an improvement.
Professional athletes will train, eat, and take supplementation at the same times each day. By monitoring and taking note of results like athletes do in your own diet plan over a period of time, you will also be able to identify whether any changes you have made in your routine have improved performance or had the opposite effect.
Published: March 8, 2014
In Part 2, Gene discusses optimal ratios of macronutrients for the purposes of bodybuilding and physique transformation.