Do carbs make you fat?
Poor carbohydrates have gotten a bad reputation over the years as being the only thing to blame for piling on the pounds. This is a very simplistic (and flawed) theory! Any calories that are consumed above and beyond what you burn off will be stored as fat – whether they are from carbohydrates, protein or fat. In short, no single nutrient alone can be blamed for weight gain.
Wholegrain carbohydrates such as oats, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and potatoes or sweet potatoes with their skins are an important part of a healthy balanced diet, providing a valuable source of fibre, vitamins and minerals. The problem with ‘carbs’ arises when they’re consumed excessively in the form of simple sugars with little or no nutritional value – think of cakes, biscuits, chocolate bars and confectionary – so you see, it’s not really the carbs themselves that are at fault, but rather their combination with fat to form foods many people find difficult to portion control!
Do I need to track macros?
‘Macros’ refer to carbohydrates, protein and fat and, no, you do not HAVE to track your macronutrients, or indeed your calories. However, if you wish to become more aware of the composition of your diet, or how what you’re actually eating looks nutritionally, it can be a valuable tool. So short term tracking can be a useful way of becoming more educated and self-aware of what you’re eating, which in turn can lead to more confidence to eat intuitively without needing to track in the future.
Tracking macros is not a ‘diet’ but rather a tool to assess current status and learn from. If necessary, the information gathered can then be used to devise dietary changes to achieve individual goals.
Is wheat/gluten bad for you?
Only if you have an allergy, or an intolerance to either of them! Gluten is a protein found in the grains wheat, rye and barley - therefore it is present in many carbohydrate-based foods which form an important part of a healthy balanced diet. It is also present in items such as pastries, cakes, buns and biscuits which are not the healthiest for us – however it’s not the wheat or the gluten here that is the problem!
Gluten is an important component of these grains and when it’s removed, crucial characteristics for taste and texture are also removed. In an attempt to compensate for this, other additives are added, as a result gluten-free foods are often higher in sugar, salt and fat than their original products!
As an athlete do I need to eat differently to my friends?
You may have higher energy (i.e. calorie) needs than your friends who do not exercise regularly. This need should be met by having larger amounts of starchy carbohydrates, lean protein sources and unsaturated fats. So still following a healthy balanced diet that will meet all vitamin and mineral needs, but perhaps eating larger portions, or eating more frequently than non-athletes.
Do I need a protein shake after going to the gym?
In a word – no! Depending on individual circumstances, protein shakes may be convenient at times but they are definitely not essential and not NEEDED after a gym session! Try including high protein food sources in your diet regularly to ensure you meet your protein needs without having to buy extra powders. Good sources of protein include chicken, fish, milk, yogurt, pulses, nuts.
To get the best results, try to space your protein intake out regularly over the day by having 15-25g protein at each meal or snack – this way it is metabolised and used more efficiently than if it’s all eaten in only a couple of sittings.
Should I take any supplements?
This will depend on your individual circumstances and health, however as a general rule, if you are not already deficient in any vitamins or minerals, you should be able to meet your nutritional requirements through your diet and therefore not need any supplements.
The exception to this is vitamin D – it is recommended that adults and children over 5 should take a supplement containing 10micrograms during the autumn and winter months. Vegans may need a vitamin B12 supplement. The NHS website has plenty more information on this topic: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/
I’ve been advised to follow a low FODMAP diet for my IBS, how do I do this?
The low FODMAP diet is a complex and restrictive diet, therefore if you have been advised to follow it, you should get the help of a Registered Dietitian – to ensure you are doing it safely, effectively, and not unnecessarily. All other gut conditions should be investigated for and ruled out prior to starting any kind of elimination diet. I can help you with this, or check out the Freelance Dietitians website for Registered Dietitians qualified to help you: https://freelancedietitians.org
Can I have an active social life and eat out while still eating healthily?
Yes, absolutely!! Eating healthily should not be about restriction and denial. It’s about education and empowerment so you can make the best choices on a consistent basis, whilst still ensuring you get to enjoy your favourite foods. “Healthy Eating” should not be a short-term fad ‘diet’ so it’s essential that you have the support you need to allow you to change habits and learn how to eat well in a sustainable way for your lifestyle.
I suffer from bloating and embarrassing wind almost every day, what should I do?
First of all, if you’ve noticed any change in your gut health, gut symptoms or bowel movements, please see your GP or a Gastroenterologist so the necessary tests can be done, and any medical conditions ruled out.
Then have a look at your current diet and lifestyle, are you constantly rushed? Eating quickly and ‘on the run’, do you rely on quick and convenient foods? The first steps to improving your symptoms may lie in making small changes to how you eat and how you prepare your food. If your symptoms still persist, or you suspect you may have any food intolerances, get the help of a Registered Dietitian (https://freelancedietitians.org/dietitians-in-private-practice/) to help you safely and effectively identify these.
Is a vegetarian/vegan diet better for me?
There are many benefits to including more plant-based foods in our diets, and vegetarianism or veganism can be a very healthy way to eat if done properly. However, cutting out meat/chicken/fish etc won’t automatically make you healthier! A vegetarian or vegan diet should be well planned to ensure you are getting all the necessary nutrients. You still need to ensure your meals are composed of wholesome and unprocessed (as much as possible) foods, and consist of fruit, vegetables, wholegrain starchy carbohydrates, fortified dairy alternatives, pulses, nuts and unsaturated fats. Foods high in fat and sugar should be kept as an occasional treat in small amounts. Nutrients to pay particular attention to are calcium, iron, vitamin D and vitamin B12.
If this is a dietary or lifestyle change you want to make, do your (reputable) research, or ask for help from a Registered Dietitian or Registered Nutritionist to ensure you do it healthily.