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paleo-dietWhy is good nutrition important?

What we eat fuels how our body functions, feels and stores fat. Poor nutrition and gut health affects people in different ways and can be categorised according to:
  1. Local Symptoms: abdominal pain, IBS, Ulcerative Colitis, Coeliacs, leaky gut, bloating, reflux
  2. Psychological health: depression, headaches, low energy, no sex drive, weight gain
  3. Activity: longer recovery, fatigue, poor performance, reduced strength or volume
However, all of these can be triggered by stress.

Stress occurs when the sympathetic nervous system is activated by hormones and chemicals (cortisol, adrenaline etc). This is beneficial in the short term, e.g. when you're training, but causes problems when chronically active because your parasympathetic system "rest and digest" cannot function.

What does the gut do?

nutrition The gastrointestinal tract is from the mouth to the anus; it is responsible for eating and chewing food, transporting it via the oesophagus to the stomach where it is broken down and passed on to the intestines (gut) where water, vitamins and minerals are extracted before waste is passed to the colon. The GI tract has the greatest contact with the outside world than any other area of our body. 70% of our immune cells are located here to protect us in case something dangerous and unwanted enters our mouths.

When we persistently eat foods which irritate our gut (intestinal) lining, the area becomes chronically inflamed and potentially damaged. This can prevent the absorption of nutrients and minerals and may allow harmful chemicals into the body, which again causes an immune response.

Treating inflammation or abdominal pain with antibiotics or categorising the problem as an "autoimmune disease" addresses the symptoms but not the underlying cause. Contemporary western diet and lifestyle negatively influences gut health; finding out your intolerances and eating in a way which promotes normal gut function will make you feel better and improve athletic performance. Enter the Paleo Diet.

What is the paleo diet?

cavewoman-dietThe paleo or caveman diet promotes eating natural, unprocessed foods, like our Palaeolithic ancestors. Whilst some of us have adapted to eating dairy and grains, the majority of the population is intolerant and suffers from associated symptoms like bloating, headaches, fatigue, sugar cravings and lifestyle diseases (Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol etc).

Paleo Nutrition is simple: eat meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds and drink lots of water. It is not a fad diet, but a lifestyle change. The more natural the food we eat, the better our bodies are able to function. We were not designed to eat vegetable oil, something so processed that it has only been around for the past century, or margarine, which is only one chemical different from the plastic packaging it's stored in! Let alone corn flakes, pasta, sweets, crisps, pizza, cheese strings or diet coke. For more information about what to and not to eat on the Paleo diet, have a look at Mark’s Daily Apple

The Paleo diet is a great framework for eating for the normal population, who are relatively sedentary and want to reduce their risk of lifestyle diseases. It keeps blood sugar levels at a low level and provides sustained energy throughout the day. Many people adopt the 80/20 rule – eat 100% paleo for 80% of the time. It’s important to allow yourself to enjoy life – eat cake at a birthday party, have a one-off pizza and enjoy that icecream, but get back on it the next day. But if you really want to stick to Paleo 100 % of the time, then why not try a paleo treat or desert.

My favourite paleo recipe sites are:

 Find out more on Eating for Performance