Nutrition is the foundation upon which everything else is built. We will give you what we believe to be the most effective starting point, but ultimately you will have to find an approach that is applicable and sustainable for you.
You can’t ‘out train’ poor nutrition: you will still get results (fitness, performance, body composition), but they will only be a fraction of what you could have achieved, had you got the nutritional element correct. If you’re going to put this much effort and time into your health, why not maximize the return on your investment?
We personally feel that a nutritional strategy based on evolutionary biology is the best place from which to start. There are many different approaches in this category (e.g. Paleo, Primal, Archevore) but they all generally advocate eating natural, unprocessed foods that our bodies have evolved to thrive on and, crucially, eliminating those substances that it has not. This has been descibed by Whole9 as:
"I eat real food – fresh, natural food like meat, vegetables and fruit. I choose foods that are nutrient-dense, with lots of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, over foods that have more calories but less nutrition. Food quality is important – I’m careful about where my meat, seafood and eggs come from and buy organic local produce as often as possible.
This is not a “diet” – I eat as much as I need to maintain strength, energy, activity levels and a healthy body weight. I aim for well-balanced nutrition, so I eat both animals and a significant amount of plants. I’m not lacking carbohydrates – I just get them from vegetables and fruits instead of bread, cereal or pasta. My meals are probably higher in fat than you’d imagine, but fat is a healthy source of energy when it comes from high-quality foods like grass-fed beef, coconut and avocado.
Eating like this is ideal for maintaining a healthy metabolism and reducing inflammation within the body. It’s good for body composition, energy levels, sleep quality, mental attitude and quality of life. It helps eliminate sugar cravings and reestablishes a healthy relationship with food. It also works to minimise your risk for a whole host of lifestyle diseases and conditions, like diabetes, heart attack, stroke and autoimmune."
What to eat
Eat meat, fish, seafood, eggs, vegetables, roots, tubers, bulbs, herbs and spices as well as some fruit. Eat fats from animals, dairy*, coconut and some from avocados and olives. Avoid sugar, cereal grains, grain and seed derived oils and soy.
If you stick to that you will dramatically improve your fitness and health as well as going a long way to achieving any performance or body composition goals you may have.
What not to eat
For those who respond better to being told what not to do:
- No sugar
- No grains (especially anything containing gluten)
- No seed derived oils (e.g. sunflower, rapeseed, corn oil)
- No soy (check the label if there is one!)
If you need even more detail then the list below is an adaptation of Dr. Kurt Harris’ guidelines from Archevore.com(please see the link for the original version and we also highly recommend reading through the rest of his website).
This is an 11-step list of how to eliminate the substances that are not good for you. Go as far down the list as you can in whatever time frame you can manage. The further down the list you stop, the healthier you are likely to be (note the instruction to ‘work down the list’ starting at step 1, not pick and choose - the most significant health benefits come first):
- Get as much sleep as you can, minimise the stress that you experience, deal with any non-food addictions (e.g. drinking, smoking, internet, technology and even exercise).
- Eliminate: sugar and all caloric drinks (including fruit juices and sports drinks). Drink water, tea or coffee.
- Eliminate: all foods containing gluten grains (such as wheat, barley, rye and oats).
- Eliminate: grain and seed derived oils (e.g. most cooking oils including vegetable, sunflower, rapeseed and also temperate plant oils like soy, corn, canola, flax, walnut etc). Instead cook with animal fats (e.g beef dripping), ghee, grass fed butter and coconut oil. Only eat nuts sparingly if at all.
- Only eat meals when you're genuinely hungry. For most people this will work out to be three meals a day, if you're going to eat snacks make them higher in fat and protein. If you've got fat to lose you could try and eliminate snacks and reduce the number of meals.
- Favour grass fed ruminants like beef, lamb and buffalo for your meat. Eat eggs, fish, seafood and genuine wild game. Pork and poultry are ok. Eat stocks and broths made from the bones of the animals and fish you eat as often as possible.
- Eat offal for the vitamins and choline - fresh grass fed lamb/beef liver 1-2 times a week is plenty.
- Fuel: animal fats are an excellent dietary fuel and come with lots of fat soluble vitamins; starchy root vegetables like peeled white potatoes and sweet potatoes are nutrient laden and well tolerated by most people. Use both animal fats and root vegetables to substitute calories that formerly came from sugar and wheat. See a list of recommended fats here. If you are not diabetic and you prefer it, you can eat more starch and less animal fat. White rice and corn are additional and reasonable sources of starch if tolerated, but not as nutritious as root vegetables.
- Fruits and vegetables - besides starchy plants for fuel and micronutrients, eat a variety of different colored plants of whatever you like and tolerate. Think moderation, some is better than none, but nothing is good in excess. If you’re not trying to lose fat, a few pieces of fruit a day are fine.
- Having already eliminated anything containing soy (step 4), remove other legumes, such as beans, lentils, chickpeas etc if they are not well tolerated (due to the damage they may do to the gut lining).
- *If you’re allergic to milk protein, you can stick to ghee and butter and avoid cream, milk, yogurt and soft cheeses, or avoid dairy products all together. If this applies to you then you will need to move this step further up the list.
No counting, measuring or weighing is required, nor is it encouraged. As long as you’re following the steps above your body will tell you when it has had enough. S...L...O...W... down when you're eating, meals should take 15-20 minutes to eat, if that is hard for you try and set your fork down between each mouthful whilst you chew. Try and ensure each meal contains some protein and fat. This, especially the fat, is what is going to make you feel full and stop you getting hungry in between meals.
Try and keep beverage options to water, tea (of varying types) and some coffee – all unsweetened (this includes any form of artificial sweetener). Ensure you drink enough water. No fruit juices, cordials, smoothies, flavoured water, sport or diet drinks. Occasional alcohol is ok in moderation but stay away from beer because of the gluten grains.
What do I eat then?
Eat meat, fish, seafood, eggs, vegetables, roots, tubers, bulbs, herbs and spices as well as some fruit. Eat fats from animals, dairy*, coconut and some from avocados and olives. Basically anything edible that hasn't been eliminated in the list above. Please have a look at the further information sources and also google 'Paleo recipes' for enough ideas to last you a life time.
If you are trying to lose fat, in addition to the 11–steps above, lower your intake of starch (root vegetables and white rice etc.), fruit (limit to one serving or less a day) and nuts; increase the percentage of good fats in your diet as required in order to stop you feeling hungry. Slow your eating down even further and also try and reduce the frequency of your meals, e.g two or three times a day. Try and minimise the level of stress that you experience, don't overdo the exercise and also get as much sleep as you possibly can.
Eating for performance
If you’re training for performance then firstly ensure you are eating enough carbohydrate (ideally starch from root vegetables as mentioned in step 8); then try and shift the bulk of your that carbohydrate intake to after your training session(s) along with some easily digestible protein. For example, post training you could eat baked sweet potato and hard boiled eggs – as soon as you can after the end of the session. Ensure you are adequately hydrated and are consuming enough electrolytes with your water.
This is all about choices and personal preference. You need to find an approach that is sustainable for you and is compatible with your way of life and your family. If that means incorporating just the first few steps, or jumping in headfirst and turning your whole world upside down, it is entirely up to you, just make sure that it is sustainable and doesn't add another stress into your life. Whatever your long term choices, at least give it a real go for 30 days, then see how you look, feel and perform after that. We think you'll be quite impressed.