To Supplement or not to Supplement?

Looking back at prehistoric man’s diet, humans managed to consume a large quantity of vitamins and minerals from natural foods that they found or hunted that was sufficient for their dietary needs.

These cavemen and women had to be active in order to survive, and coped without supplements so why do we rely so heavily on supplements now?

Although the Paleo (caveman) diet includes meat fish and vegetables grown above the ground, plus fruit and nuts, modern day Paleo followers do not always get an adequate quantity of nutrients from their foods, which are not as natural and nutrient rich as they were during the Paleo era 17000 years ago.

Also, if cavemen were satisfied with their diets, it begs the question, why did they go in search of grains and root vegetables, beginning the Neolithic era.

However even though the Paleo diet appears to be natural and balanced, the average age of a caveman was shockingly low at only 16. The average age for a Neolithic man was almost twice as old at 34.

The Neolithic diet includes a wider range of foods and a larger quantity of carbohydrates making up a good proportion of the diet.

This was more sustainable and kept humans fulfilled until the population increased to a point where intensive farming and food production made food more accessible to the masses.

With the population rising to over 7 billion, intensive farming, factory farming where the animals are kept in factories as opposed to fields, often in dark cramped conditions, plus plant breeding, conventional and using genetic modification, are the best ways to produce more food from the same amount of land.

This all leads to a lowering of nutrient content. This has caused a rise in deficiencies and the emergence of diseases of the dark ages.

Although macronutrients such as carbs, proteins and fats can be synthesised or scavenged by the body in times of crisis to meet the basic physiological functions, the dietary vitamins and trace elements are organic and inorganic compounds. These have specific requirements that can’t be met by the body.

There are also vast differences in the micronutrient content of foods grown in and out of season. The storage processes and food production deplete the nutrient quantity further.

Fat soluble vitamins D,A,K,and E are found in oily fish, liver, dark green leafy veg, dairy, soya beans, whole eggs, nuts and seeds.

Water soluble vitamins, B, C Folate, Niacin, Panthenoic acid are found in whole grains, cereals, liver, shellfish, rice and fruit and veg.

Minerals Iron, copper, zinc, magnesium and manganese are found in dried fruits, meat, shellfish, legumes, nuts, seeds, root vegetables and cruciferous vegetables.

Tinned fruit and vegetables lose some micronutrients during the heat treatment process such as vitamin C.

If food choices and availability do not allow for a wide ranging diet, ensure your supplements are from a reputable source.

Active individuals obviously require a larger amount of micronutrients than less fit people and so often turn to supplements.

Regular high intensity exercise is extremely stressful on the body, which means a greater demand for certain vitamins and minerals that drive the energy metabolism.

Hormones can be affected by an insufficient nutrient intake so it is important to ensure that the diet is varied and high in nutrients.

Also exercise causes free radical damage and sufficient micro nutrients are needed in order for the endogenous antioxidant properties of the body to mop up the free radicals. Consuming antioxidants aids this process.

Eating an insufficient quantity of micronutrients when training can hinder recovery; even sweating can deplete the body of vital minerals, zinc, magnesium, copper, iron calcium and sodium. A good post training electrolyte drink can be made simply at home by mixing one part water to one part sweetened orange juice and adding a pinch of salt.

Supplements can be used to counteract deficiencies. However cheaper supplements can be mixed with magnesium oxide which can reduce the bioavailability by to up to only 4%, and the rest lost as urine.

Good supplements can cost a considerable amount more and often it is more beneficial to spend more on a wider variety of foods than on a cheap supplement.

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The Paleo Diet – Eating Like a Caveman

Ever since the gastroenterologist Walter Voegtlin coined the phase Paleolithic diet, people have been copying the diets of caveman in an attempt to eat healthier and lose weight.

Foods can be either hunted and fished, such as meat, offal and seafood, or gathered, such as eggs, fruit, nuts, seeds, vegetables, mushrooms, herbs and spices.

In particular it is recommended to eat only lean cuts of meat, free of food additives, preferably wild game meats and grass-fed beef since they contain higher levels of omega-3 fats compared with grain-produced domestic meats.

The reasons for these food types are that prior to the Neolithic (agricultural) revolution, humans were unable to produce grains eg. Rice, flour, also they were unable to cook legumes or beans, or produce any form of dairy products, refined sugars and processed oils

It is thought that this diet is very beneficial to health as we are essentially omnivorous. There are far more vitamins and nutrients in a Paleo diet rich in fruits, vegetable, nuts and seeds than in the modern day refined processed foods diet we now consume

Medical problems that can be alleviated with a Paleo diet include Chrohns disease, IBS and Colitis. Paleo diets are Gluten free and so suitable for Coeliacs. Casein which is a protein found in milk and dairy products, and may impair glucose tolerance in humans is also not part of a Paleo diet,

Various books have been written and studies carried out on un-westernized communities, and the Paleo diet with a high protein content, low carbohydrate content has been linked to a lack of strokes, ischemic heart disease, diabetes, obesity and hypertension

However, also raw, Paleolithic dieters are even more strict and who believe that humans have not adapted to cooked foods, and so they eat only foods which are both raw and Paleolithic

The idea is to avoid any processed foods and stick to foods of plant or animal origin. GI indexes and loadings are not specified, there is not a point system or Atkins type of regime, nor is it a quick fix solution. Its more of a lifestyle change, not to lose weight fast, but to enhance ones health and minimise the risk of disease from modern refined foods

This diet is in stark contrast to a typical western diet which consists of up to 70% refined sugars, processed oils, processed cereals, dairy and alcohol, all of which are banned from the Paleo diet

These banned foods when eaten in excess have been linked to the obesity epidemic that is spreading across the Western world, as well as high volume of cases of Type 2 diabetes, cardio vascular disease and high blood pressure. The reason for this is that our former functional diet aided natural selection and the growth of the human population, our current dysfunctional diet differs greatly from what we have evolved to eat and so cause us various medical ailments

The proportions of animal to plant foods that our ancestors ate are vastly unclear. We know that around 64- 68% of the diet was from animal origin, the rest originated from plants

Our digestive system, organs, teeth, stomach pH and gut size are moistly similar to that of Chimpanzees, which are essentially fruit eaters. We share 98% of our DNA with Chimps who consume around 95% plants and 5% animal foods. However the one difference between our digestive systems if the way we synthesize polyunsaturated fats, in that we require more from our diet than Chimps, as we are require a greater quantity and are not as adept as synthesizing these fats ourselves. The best source of these fats is fish.

One mineral that is lacking from a Paleo diet is Vitamin D, which modern day humans require in much greater amounts in our sunless climate than in the Paleolithic era

About 10,000 years ago, humans began to domesticate animals and produce dairy. New foods such as beans, cereals and salt were introduced due to agricultural methods, as well as alcohol.

The industrial revolution enabled us to use food processing and intensive farming methods to produce refined cereals, sugar, vegetable oils and fatty meats.

Whilst crops 10,000 years ago were nutrient rich, after thousands of years of intensive farming, the mass produced vegetables and fruits we find in our local shops contains far less nutrients, and so would need to be more varied to ensure all the essential vitamins and minerals are consumed.

Although food production methods would have to change drastically in order to sustain the work population that has surpassed 7 billion, a Paleo diet is the healthiest way reduce the risk of modern diseases.

Strictly adhering to a Paleo diet may mean making some changes with eating out socially, avoiding alcohol and involves a certain amount of preparation. But it is well worth at least considering reducing the amount of processed foods we eat and incorporating more natural, seasonal foods which are more nutrient packed and full of health benefits that the packaged processed foods we have become accustomed to eating sadly lack.

Do You Live It?

As a trainer and therapist, I constantly find myself being sized up when meeting potential clients. Being asked what I eat, how often I train, and whether my life is in order are questions I am asked on a daily basis.

The potential client looks me up and down as I answer and process the info, building up a picture in their minds, working out if I practise what  I preach, if I truly believe what I advise, if I truly live it.

As it happens I do live it. I am a personal trainer who has always trained twice a day – days a week even when working in exess of 60 hours a  week. I am a nutritioinist who eats superfoods 95% of the time and who recommends clients a similarly clean tailored program incorporating a weekly cheat meal to keep them sane, which is something I do and immensley enjoy.

Nadia Tejani

 I am a life coach who like many has had various ups and downs but has managed to get my life in order and get my dream job and lifestyle, and am lucky enough to be able to help others to do the same.

But how many nutritionists actually eat clean? Many dieticians and nutritioinsts are more than capable of advising clients to lose weight and maintain a healthy eating plan, whilst indulging in less than healthy snacks.

Gyms around the country are filled with personal trainers and fitness instructors of varying shapes and size all with a client base or following. Some trainers say clients seed them as more normal, more personable if they are less than in shape, but isn’t it hypocritical to tell a client to do something you wouldnt do yourself? Is it fair to be expecting a person to fit exercise into their lives when you can not or do not make time?

On the other hand, would a larger person prefer to be trained by a trainer who has been obese and has managed to lose the excess weight and so sympathises with the plight of the bigger person, or one who has always strictly controlled their food and kept fit.

Some people have more respect for the larger trainer, who they believe to be more sympathetic to their needs, who understands the reasons for their weight gain. Looking down at the more svelte trainer who would clearly have no idea of the clients struggles, putting the reasons for slimness of the trainer down to good genetics, not having a busy life, or the worst excuse, being fit because it is our job to do so. This couldn’t be furthest from the truth, we make it our job to train clients because of our immense love for fitness.

The truth is, that as trainers, therapists and nutritionists, we all have the tools to change and be the best versions of ourself, if we chose to use them, but can or should a client really respect a professional who does not practise what they preach?

Eat Well – Therapeutic Foods

Currently in the UK, the Food Standards Agency, the Government and NHS guidelines indicate the healthiest way to eat to avoid obesity is to use the “eat well plate”

This is essentially a simple way to ensure that you eat the “right” amount from each food group.

It recommends plenty of fruit and vegetables plenty of bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods – choosing wholegrain varieties when possible, some milk and dairy foods some meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein. A small amount of foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar are allowed.

However, although following the above guidelines may ensure that the correct amount of macronutrients are consumed each day, it does little to account for micronutrients, and omits to mention any therapeutic foods whatsoever.

Therapeutic foods are those with high nutrient values and specific health benefits

Currants, raspberries and blackberries are genito-urinary tonics.

Apples and quinces tone up the liver, stomach and bowels. Apricot kernels, on the other hand, open up the lungs in coughing and lung congestion.  Pears moisten and protect the lungs against the dry autumn weather.  Cherries are beneficial in arthritis and rheumatism.

Oranges and orange juices are good at relieving fevers.  Lemons have a sour astringency that stimulates the bile and gastric juices, and aids in the expectoration of phlegm

The fruit and juice of the pomegranate stimulates and moves a sluggish stomach and bowels, whereas the rind can be decocted into a tea which is good for diarrhoea, haemorrhoids and intestinal parasites.

Beetroots are a tonic and detoxifier of the liver and the blood.  Celery root and Parsley root are adaptogens that enhance overall vitality and energy levels and resistance to stress, and are also tonics for the kidneys and the genitourinary system, particularly in the male.  For women, parsnips are great tonics and regulators of the female menstrual cycle.

Pumpkin and squash, especially butternut and acorn squash, help to regulate and lower blood sugar levels in those with diabetes.  Pumpkin seeds are good for the prostate, and are also a vermifuge.

Artichoke and bitter greens like dandelion and endive promoting bile flow and cleanse the liver.  Perhaps the most famous vegetables to cleanse the urinary tract in urinary infections is asparagus

Spicy vegetables(herbs) stimulate the circulation, immunity and digestion, and can play a valuable therapeutic role in the daily diet.  Fresh ginger root stimulates and harmonizes the stomach and digestion when eaten, is boiled as a tea as first aid for colds, increases the resistance of the organism to colds and flu when cooked into one’s food, and purifies the lymphatic system as a tea.   Onions also stimulate the immune system to throw off colds and flu and expel phlegm from the body, as does horseradish.  Garlic not only stimulates the immune system against infection, but also normalizes blood pressure and circulation, and kills off pathogenic bacteria in the intestines, thinning the blood and lowering cholesterol.

Radishes are a spicy vegetable that stimulate the stomach and digestion, eliminate excess phlegm, and stimulates the flow of bile.

Beans can be a problematic food group, as many of them are hard to digest. The easier ones to digest are mung beans, adzuki beans, lentils and black beans.  Nevertheless, many beans do have valuable therapeutic properties.

Drinking the water after boiling mung beans or adzuki beans, cause a mild diuretic effect, and this cleanses and heals the genitourinary tract.  Black beans strengthen the kidneys, and adzuki beans can be therapeutic in diabetes.

To enhance digestibility, beans can be cooked with certain spices; Cumin, Wormseed. Caraway and Tarragon.

Echinacea boosts the immune system and can offer resistance to colds and influenza.

Ginkgo preserves the function of the brain and slows down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

St. John’s Wort works as an antidepressant and has fewer side effects that prescribed anti depressants.

Milk thistle benefits the liver and helps the body eliminate toxins staving off liver disease caused by alcohol.

Calming chamomile can remedy an upset stomach and aid sleep and can also improve the skin if taken topically.

Thyme improves the immune system, promotes perspiration and eases sore throats and coughs. It has mild antiseptic properties.

Sage herb calms the nerves, improves digestion and eases lung congestion and coughs.

Rosemary improves circulation, stimulates the liver into eliminating toxins from the body, eases joint and headache pain and relieves cold symptoms.

Mint and peppermint ease stomach and digestive problems, relax the mind and can ease headaches.

Oats have a high mucilage content, which is very soothing to the stomach and intestines; oats also have the reputation of being a restorative for the nerves and beautifying to the skin.

Buckwheat is the most heating grain, and is the best to eat in winter.  Millet is light and easy to digest, yet very high in protein

To get the maximum amount of goodness from milk which is naturally very cold and phlegm forming, heat it up with the following spices; Cinnamon, Cardamom, Allspice, Ginger Cloves, and Black Pepper.

To neutralize the toxins from red meat and aid in its digestion, cook or eat with hot, pungent spices and condiments like Cloves, Black Pepper, Garlic, Mustard Onions or Horseradish.

To aid digestion, fish can be sprinkled with lemon juice; capers or horseradish are also good.

The benefits of eating essential micronutrients are endless, and all can be purchased from your local supermarket.

Rehydration – Remember the Electrolytes!

Have you ever felt a tingling sensation in your muscles during a work-out? Do you sometimes feel faint after heavy exercise? Are you sluggish after a heavy cardiovascular session and you feel more exhausted than you should?

Besides the fact that your training regime might be completely wrong, you may be dehydrated and your electrolytes might be completely off balance. Many of us also take protein shakes and energy drinks during and after the workout. These make the situation even worse and deplete you of even more electrolytes! Next time, why don’t you try to take some electrolytes such as Dioralyte which can can be ordered from Amazon UK.

The drink is very easy to prepare. Just dissolve one sachet in 200 ml of water just before consumption. Dioralyte comes in different flavours – Blackcurrant, although being the most widely sold, may not be to everyone’s pellet. The above advertised citrus flavour is much easier to handle. So next time you do heavy exercise, why not try replenish your electrolytes? You will see that it will make a world of a difference. In fact, even if you are not a sportsperson, this is a good addition to your diet and helps keep your hormone levels in check and your body retain the water it absorbs.

Fiona Kirk: So What The F*** Should I Eat?

As soon as I saw the title of the book, I was intrigued.

So What The F*** Should I Eat? It was a question I had asked myself many times over the years as I moved despondently from one fad diet to the next, trying to find an eating plan where I could lose weight but didn’t feel like I was starving myself or denying myself foods I enjoyed.

Fiona Kirk’s Fat Loss Plan detailed in So What The F*** Should I Eat? is radical and rebellious. Primarily because it’s all about you – the individual – rather than a prescribed method of rules that MUST be followed as if your life depended on it. Whether you are a Disciple, Rule Maker or Rule Breaker, her weight loss advice will work for you. I’ll let you guess which category I fell into but let’s just say that chocolate and I have been having a meaningful relationship for many years!

What becomes apparent as soon as you start reading Fiona Kirk’s So What The F*** Should I Eat? is that she knows what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the struggle most of us will face at one time or another when we’re trying to shed those extra pounds. Most diets are about deprivation, boredom, starvation and dull repetitive regimes. Fiona Kirk is a qualified nutirtionist and has spent years researching what a healthy diet actually looks like. I love her straightforward, no-nonsense approach and how she is able to take the confusion out of dieting to give the reader a clear and confident path to follow and a great deal more understanding about nutrition. Throughout the book, Fiona’s humour and wit ensure that the advice she gives is entertaining, engaging and as fresh as the foods she champions.

Fiona Kirk

The first revolutionary thing about Fiona’s advice in So What The F*** Should I Eat? is that she tells the reader to BIN THE SCALES! She quite rightly states that muscle mass increases while you lose fat if you are following a healthy weight loss regime of diet and exercise. So obssessing about where the needle is wavering on those bathroom scales isn’t the best way to monitor weight loss. Fiona advocates the WAISTBAND METHOD instead. Take your tightest pair of jeans and see how they feel every day as you follow her fat loss plan. As the weeks go by and the waistband feels more comfortable, you know you’re heading in the right direction. Being able to get a thumb or two between you and the waistband of your skinny jeans or skirt is much more satisfying than looking at a number on a dial.

The second revolutionary thing about the book is that there are few rules but lots of suggestions. Fiona knows that following a prescribed way of eating doesn’t work for everybody so instead she takes a Pick ‘n’ Mix approach with her Fat Loss Plan. There is a whole chapter called Lots of Eats which give you countless options you can choose from to eat. Fiona also takes the radical approach of not defining meals as Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. She believes that five or six small meals are better than three large ones and there is no reason not to eat porridge as an evening meal. That’s probably her Scottish roots coming through as any Scot will tell you how filling and nutritious a bowl of porridge is, no matter what time of day you eat it. Eating something healthy from her Lots of Eats suggestions every 2 to 3 hours is one of Fiona’s recommendations to keep your metabolism fired up and lose fat without losing your sanity. Fiona also gives plenty of advice about exercise and clever tactics to increase your levels of fitness.

In addition to the Fat Loss Plan, Fiona has also devised a 14 day diet called 2 Weeks in the Fast Lane which is detailed in this book and is also the title of her second book which promises maximum fat loss with maximum nourishment in minimum time. Quick fix diets always attract bad press but here Fiona “decided to concentrate on the positives and ignore the negatives and find out what the 5-15% of successful dieters do and why they not only reach their goal but maintain fat loss long term”. After extensive research, she discovered that certain quick fix strategies can and do work and devised a diet that combines the revelations of successful dieters with the latest research into foods, eating and lifestyle practices that accelerate fat loss – a unique and exciting recipe.

Fiona also has an even quicker 3 day plan when time is of the essence where you live on fresh fruit, nuts (not peanuts) and water for three days, eating a handful of nuts or a couple of pieces of fruit every 2 hours. I tried her “3 Days in the Super Fast Lane Plan” and must admit the results were amazing.

Moving onto Fiona’s Fat Loss Plan, I continued to lose weight steadily and after 4 weeks I felt very comfortable in my tight skinny cords. In fact I could even get a thumb inbetween me and the waistband! I enjoyed eating a wide range of foods and based my meals around soups and salads, eating fresh fruit or drinking smoothies in the morning, avoiding carbs after 6pm and snacking on nuts or raw veggies. I found that eating every 2-3 hours gave me lots more energy in addition to the fat loss results and I slept better too.

I was so impressed with the results achieved that I shared Fiona’s book So What The F*** Should I Eat? with City Connect’s Editor-in-Chief Sloan Sheridan-Williams. Sloan did the 2 Weeks in the Fast Lane Diet and lost enough weight to go down a dress size and fit into this season’s fashionable skinny flares with no hint of a muffin top! Sloan also reported that she had more energy and clearer skin after following the eating plan.

If you’re looking to shed those extra pounds and want to try a diet that works with you rather than against you, I highly recommend you buy Fiona Kirk’s So What The F*** Should I Eat? or if you’re looking for a quick fix that will still teach you strategies to lose weight after Day 14, then buy Two Weeks in the Fast Lane Diet. Both books are available from