Chewing the fat with Rhi…and the carbs and the protein…
I’ve known about Rhi for a while (not just in an ‘Instagram stalking’ sense) as she is not only highly thought of as a health practitioner but also moves in similar circles in the London fitness blogging scene. Something I felt Rhi and I had in common was the similarity in how we have combined our professional careers with our social media and blogging activities in a bid to communicate with more people beyond our private clientele.
I was interested to spend some time with Rhi and ask her a few questions on themes that I have seen pop up time and again in the fitness industry, as a nutritional expert I was keen to hear her take on subjects that, as a fitness coach, I obviously have a keen interest in. I wasn’t disappointed…turns out Rhi is of course not only extremely knowledgeable but also has some fascinating insights into human behaviour when it comes to choosing the food we eat and why we choose those foods (whether it be due to our fitness goals or for emotional reasons). All thoroughly interesting stuff…
My first question to Rhi…
…was based upon my own personal frustrations with the advertising side of the fitness industry. Historically, in my opinion we have been oversold products such as aesthetics and undersold other much more important reasons to select appropriate foods such as gut health, etc. Rhi’s response was to describe the body as a series of cogs that all need to be in place for the body to function fully. If we focus only on the aesthetics or sporting goals when consideration our nutrition then we run the risk of over prescribing in one area and detracting in another, ‘each cell in our body needs adequate nutrition in order to perform. You could be putting a physical pressure upon the body, but if you don’t have the actual support from your liver, your organs, your muscles, everything works in tandem together – so my real emphasis is that food should be used as fuel to keep us alive everyday, to keep the brain ticking over. With our brain comes the function of our body, our muscles…everything works all together.’
To summarise in Rhi’s words
her emphasis is on ‘balanced nutrition, always food for fuel…and food for enjoyment – because at the end of the day we also lose the enjoyment if you’re very preoccupied with things like macro counting or ‘numbers not nutrients’ and I actually think its ‘nutrients not numbers’…you’ve got to think about protecting your organs!’
I have to wonder, when most people think about their fitness routine and supporting eating habits, how many are thinking about protection of their organs over obtaining that elusive six pack? I’ve been on this mindset journey myself. In my late teens/early twenties my motivation for training and nutrition was sports performance orientated, in my mid to late twenties it swung to aesthetics as it does with most young men, but now in my early thirties I can say that I exercise and eat healthily for a whole new set of reasons – cognitive function, physical energy/vitality and longevity to list a few. All of which are by products of a healthy gut…from which a lean abdominal area is more likely to emerge anyway! So if we can obtain the same lean definition result via a different mindset that brings about healthy organ/gut/body changes then shouldn’t we all be approaching our nutrition and training this way?
So my next question to Rhi was simply
‘What one bit of advice do you find yourself giving out the most to your clients?’
‘Huh such a good question (why thank you)…I always seem to find that blood sugar balance is the ultimate one. People tend to skip meals or they’re not snacking when they should be snacking because it doesn’t fit in with their daily requirements they’ve calculated for themselves OR they are making the wrong choices which is affecting what I call the blood sugar rollercoaster. The insulin releases if you have too much sugar in your diet, not enough protein to slow down the release of these sugars and with these highs…come massive crashes in energy lows. If we can keep our blood sugar one stable line you’re more likely to perform better and have more energy and sleep better!’
The next subject we discussed was particularly directed at the men out there who ‘may’ tend to over focus on their protein intake when working on their goals (of muscle mass gains and sports performance) at the potential detriment of other important areas of nutrition. Yes I know that I am generalising here but I can’t get away from the fact that most men I have encountered over the years seem to eat a disproportionate amount of protein to fibrous vegetables. I know because I used to be one of them and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I got on top of my weekly veg intake by getting Abel & Cole on the case which made a huge difference.
I asked Rhi that ‘IF’ men do over focus on protein then what other things should they be bringing into their diet to reach those goals of muscle mass, sports performance, etc???
Rhi made some really interesting points that made lots of sense but perhaps often get overlooked.
‘So for the men out there you are very good at being aware of your protein intake, that is something I don’t get with the women so much, you (men) are very aware you need enough. The problem is that you forget that protein only works with certain elements in the diet. I find a lot of men are not eating enough good carbohydrates; our brain has a blood-brain barrier, imagine a line across your head, without the help of the carbohydrate carrier certain amino acids in proteins cant get through the brain and can’t do their job adequately in terms of serotonin production and other neurological functions. So one thing people also tend to forget is vegetables…guys you tend to count macros but you forget that because your carbohydrates and veg go into sugars [into one category] you’re not getting anywhere enough micronutrients. You need more zinc, more B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium – things that come with colour.’
So this is where the term ‘eat the rainbow’ comes from…
If you’re a guy who is looking to get bigger and perform better then fill your plate with loads of vegetable with plenty of colour to ensure you’re more likely to hit your micronutrient requirements to make the most out of your training routine.
Lastly I had a few quick fire questions for Rhi, here’s my favourite.
Me, ‘If you were stranded on a desert island for 6 months and were only allowed one food item what would it be?’
Rhi, ‘If only a food existed that gave me everything in one bite. If I had to pick a food I enjoy and I knew it gave me a lot of nutrition it would be…eggs! The yolk alone contains vitamin D. A whole array of micronutrients as well as protein as well as a bit of healthy fats. You’ve got a winner in an egg.’
What an amazing answer…and imagine the variety. You could have scrambled one day, boiled the next. Poached, fried, an omelette…even coddled or steamed (apparently a Swiss method!) the list goes on.
Well done Rhi…I actually think that you’re a pretty good egg yourself.