Treating food as fuel for a happy and healthy day

Start the day with fruit
Start the day with fruit
Stuart Burnham with 12-year-old Andrew Impey and his mum, Kirstine Burnham   Picture: Habibur Rahman

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Food is fuel! I’m always surprised (although I know I shouldn’t be) how many people don’t seem to understand this basic principle.

Now I appreciate that food is also for pleasure, social gatherings and for many other reasons.

But if you take it back to when we were first on this earth then it was and still is to fuel our bodies for daily life, whatever that throws at us.

The following example may sound like you. Certainly I think a lot of people will recognise this scenario.

Recently I trained a client who has a really busy office job and the day before her training session had been hectic.

She struggles to get up early enough in the morning to be able to have a proper breakfast, but on this day managed to grab some porridge and strawberries before work.

At lunchtime she was caught out because the salad she had taken to work had gone off so she ended up just grabbing whatever she could find.

Having left work late, she realised that she didn’t really have that much in to make dinner and her evening meal ended up being a glass of wine and a handful of crisps!

Now I came to train her the next day in the morning and she hadn’t had a chance to eat beforehand.

I could tell that this was going to be a recipe for disaster and as the session went on she had less and less energy.

In the end we had to stop the session early because she felt sick.

So if you are doing a rigorous workout, walking or just being active because of the demands of your daily life then your body needs to be fuelled appropriately for the form of activity you are doing.

This may sound technical and it doesn’t have to be really.

Don’t expect to function properly on empty in the morning.

For example, even if you aren’t going to the gym early you still need to replenish energy stores for your brain and yourself to be able to get through the morning.

If you are doing a workout before you have breakfast, then the best thing to give you much-needed energy would be amino acids taken in water as these will increase your fat burn and not affect your lean muscle.

If you can’t get your hands on these, then I would recommend some berries or a banana to replenish your glycogen stores.

Something small before your workout and to start off the day is definitely better than nothing at all, and then your breakfast should contain a small serving of carbohydrate.

This could be in the form of fruit, rice or starchy vegetables.

Throughout the day you should stick to three meals and keep the snacks to a minimum.

All regular snacking will do is keep your blood sugar at an average level and increase your risk of becoming insulin resistant.

If this happens it is even harder to lose weight as your body will produce too much insulin in a response to the food you are eating.

Also if you can eat your last meal of the day around 6pm then this gives your body a chance to digest it properly before bed.

That will result in a much more restful sleep as your body will not have to work overtime during the night to digest a heavy meal.

If you have to eat later than this it is best to choose something light to eat.

Good choices for this time of day would be grilled chicken salad or scrambled eggs and spinach.

Again these types of food tend to be much better for aiding digestion through the night.

· Nikki Caputa is a health and fitness coach who works one-to-one with clients and runs her own fitness camps where she trains groups. Known as FAB Body Bootcamps, two are based at Fareham and one is in Portsmouth. Nikki is also an ambassador for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Visit fabbodybootcamp.co.uk and challenge-fitness.co.uk. Follow Nikki on Twitter @nikkifitmum1.