1. What's your goal?
This question has been a common theme throughout this series of blogs and with good reason. If you don't know what you want the end goal to be how do you expect to be able to create an optimal approach? Do you want to eat for weight loss? Longevity? Performance? Consistent energy? All these goals will require slightly different tweaks so define what your one big goal is now.
2. Eat Real Food
Whilst there are tweaks to make for each goal there are still some big picture pieces which are pretty much constant throughout. The first of these is to simply eat real food. In our modern world of highly processed frankenfoods we need to get back to what nature intended and what our physiology is set up for. Think back over your last few meals and consider what % of the foods you've eaten has come from a bag, packet, box etc or came with an ingredient list. Real food should make up at least 80% of your intake. By doing so you are removing artificial ingredients that manipulate your hunger levels and helps restore normality to your systems, meaning you can start trusting your hunger levels again.
3. Match your carb intake to your level of intense activity
There is much debate around the topic of carbohydrate intake and this is definitely an area where I have had strong opinions too. However in recent times I have been thinking how to simplify this all down and I feel that this rule is a great place to start. Despite popular belief we don't actually need a huge amount of carbohydrate to function optimally, however if we perform intense exercise then this produces a demand for glucose and we need to eat more carbs to provide for this. Rather than specify exact formulas I advise that you experiment and find what works for you. At a basic level I'd simply eat a carb based meal after every bout of intense exercise and then stick to wholefood meat/fish and vegetables the rest of the time.
4. Incorporate some fasts
Good things happen when we aren't eating. We train our body to run on our fat stores, developing metabolic flexibility and we start autophagy processes which clean out damaged cells and are crucial for health and longevity. There are many different ways in which you can include some fasting into your regime. The 5:2 is most popular but I would instead look at a couple of different daily fast options. Personally I prefer to simply delay my first meal so I continue the overnight fast, another option is 16:8 where you confine your eating into an 8 hour window. This is really flexible and can be fitted around your typical work/training regimes. Another option is to build in a proper. water only, fast for a day or so once a fortnight. As you get older this is something you will want to include more to take care of health and longevity goals.
5. Don't be afraid of natural fats
Fat has been endlessly demonised and, despite the recent finger pointing at sugar, many people are still afraid of eating fats, particularly saturated ones. The reality is that fat is essential for so many physiological processes and cutting out fat can blunt both our health and our performance. My simple rule is that you shouldn't sweat natural fats. Prioritise these and cut out the refined, artificially manipulated, vegetable oils and you won't go far wrong.
And that is as complicated as it need be. I hope this post has been useful to clarify some key points for you. As ever I'd love to hear your thoughts. If you have any topics that you would like to see given the 'top tips' treatment then do get in touch.