This is a question I get asked quiet a bit and I'd love to share with you what I do with my eating both in general and during training and competing in endurance sports races.
First though let's take a step back...
Prior to January 2013 my diet consisted of whatever I felt like eating, when I felt like eating and as often as I felt like eating it. I wasn't a happy person at all. I'd often get into circles of poor food choices based around big weekends on the booze and high carbohydrate and saturated fat meals i.e. McDonald's and KFC which were my best friends at times. The basic way my diet rolled out was as follows;
- Drinking heavily on Friday night watching the footy at the pub
- Up early for work as a real estate agent on Saturday with a few donuts and a coffee on the way to work and maybe another cake or two through the day. Some McDonald's or KFC for lunch then back to the pub or out to the city for a drinking session that same night.
- On Sunday I'd wake up at some stage, check if I had my wallet and phone, probably eat some more high carbohydrate and fatty food to aid the hangover from the night before which lazing on the couch watching more sport.
- At some point id get on with the week ahead ready to repeat the same schedule the following weekend.
This was my life for far too long and so in January 2013 I finally made a decision that I didn't want this in my life.
So that sets up the background for you a little if you haven't read too much about my journey in the past. Feel free to have a look at the 'My Story' section on my website with more info and pics.
Throughout the following 15 months until March 2014, I followed exactly (yes exactly) what my personal trainer advised me were the healthiest foods to eat to firstly help me to lose 30kgs and then secondly to help my body get what it needed in order to complete in an Ironman triathlon.
Actually, I will confess that at the back end of 2013 (after 9 months of not having one single alcoholic drink), I had a few beers on a couple of nights out but no big boozy nights out whatsoever followed by awful so called 'food' the next day.
My goal was far too important to me to have a night or two out. I had completely changed my relationship with food from being an emotional one to being one of need for performance. Don't get me wrong, I still loved and still do love eating and food in general but by eliminating eating to suppress my emotions, I was able to unlock just a little of my true potential.
Following my first Ironman race in March 2014, I decided after months of research with April, to follow a vegetarian diet. For the first time in my life I had started to question what I was eating, what it was doing to the environment and what the best and most effective foods were for me to perform at my peak and recover in the best way possible.
After all the research we adopted a vegetarian diet which for us was the way to go. I can honestly say that my recovery from hard training sessions improved dramatically really quickly. I put this down to simply introducing more vitamins and minerals into my diet. I felt lighter, fitter, fresher and 10 weeks after completing my first Ironman race in Melbourne, I did my second Ironman in Cairns. I am the worlds biggest sceptic when it comes to pretty much everything but this change was amazing!
I followed a vegetarian diet for the next 12 months up until November this year. We decided again through a stack of research to try a full plant-based diet. So not consuming anymore dairy (just eliminating cheese & butter here for us as we had eliminated cows milk when we went vegetarian), eggs or animal related products.
So I guess now I'm finally getting to my point of this blog post - What do I eat?
Well I eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, healthy fats and legumes. The latest change to a full plant-based diet has made things a little harder when we are out but it just means we need to ask more questions. April and I both follow the same diet and it can be really difficult to find the foods we want when we're out as we now find that most of the vegetarian options available contain eggs, milk, butter and cheese products, however, every week we are finding more and more vegan options available to eat. I use the word 'vegan' sparingly for a couple of reasons;
- I'm not actually living a true vegan lifestyle (as this involves total elimination of all animal related products not only in consuming them as food but in utilising products in a living sense that use animal derived materials), so I don't think it's right to call myself vegan at times and not at others. I have an amazing sponsor in Temple Nutrition who are providing me with my natural whole food nutritional needs for both training and racing in the lead up to Ultraman Australia 2016 and beyond. Temple Nutrition use honey in some of their products and therefore they are not a "vegan" product.
- I find at times there is some sort of thought from some people that a plant-based lifestyle means you smoke weed everyday, live in a homemade tent and don't believe in electricity or money. These assumptions couldn't be further from the truth for myself and April.
- I also feel at times some people believe that my plant-based eating plan is extreme and this brings me to another area of this lifestyle. I believe and it's been proven that there is more than enough sustenance in plant foods for the world to survive. I don't believe looking after your body in the best way you can is in anyway extreme. I believe the alternative to be 'extreme' i.e. its extreme if you're knowingly not looking after your body. Would you ever put fuel in your car that was proven to be bad for your vehicle over a long period of time? I think we know the answer to this one. So why would anyone in their right state of mind who looks after a mash of metal, leads, lights, dials and tyres like it's their first born child in order to save a few dollars over time, put anything but the best food into their bodies? To have poor food choices for yourself and your family is extreme. I often smile when the 'health food' section of a supermarket is half an isle. Sooooooo the only area of the store that's actually healthy food is found in that particular section? I wonder what would happen if all the poor food choices in a supermarket were marked with 'unhealthy food'?
So my message here is certainly not to follow what I specifically eat and don't eat everyday. Start or even continue to look into what YOU eat and ask as many questions as you can in relation to what you eat. Then and only then will you have all the information to make an educated decision on what both yourself and your family (if you make the food choices) eat to perform and live at your best.
My most simple advice when it comes to making any food decision is simple and I think can be followed by most people - if it's got an ingredients list on it then there's a better option!
I strongly believe that if you follow this rule of thumb you honestly will be so far ahead of the game when it comes to real nutrition and you'll see improvements.
Just eat real food!
Until next week...
- Keep moving
- Keep going forward
- Keep kicking goals