Are You What You Eat?

When it comes to being healthy there are so many do's, don't and dieting extremes that the Internet becomes a Pandora's box of fitness contradictions. This year I decided that I wanted to see in the summer feeling healthy not only physically but mentally too.

When it comes to being healthy there are so many do's, don't and dieting extremes that the Internet becomes a Pandora's box of fitness contradictions. This year I decided that I wanted to see in the summer feeling healthy not only physically but mentally too. Giving myself an intense three-month personal boot camp I decided that my diet would be an essential place to start. Step forward Gareth Nicholas from MaxiNutrition who agreed to give his opinion on some of the fitness worlds most burning questions...

The summer is soon approaching. Is there a fast way to look your best?

There's no magic potion, pills or cutting corners but that's not to say that nutrition has to be difficult. A well balanced plan of regular eating throughout the day, with the inclusion of carbohydrate, protein and fat should be the start point. The quantity of food should be determined individually with the offset of your energy demand. Plan, prepare and refine your nutrition plan.

Are there any super foods that can help with weight loss?

When it comes to weight loss there are no must have 'super foods' it's more about creating a calorie deficit, either by a calorie restriction or by an exercise increase. In the contrary there are a number of healthy food choices that could help support your weight loss goal, for example swapping certain food choices for more suitable alternatives. Here are my top five:

•Swap white carb foods for brown alternatives

•Eat less fruit and more vegetables

•Forget sauces and add just spices

•Fresh is best - eat fresh food where possible

•Make fish your dish twice a week

What are your views on cutting carbs?

This is becoming more popular, especially when trying to lose weight. The theory is sound and being the bulk of your daily diet, cutting carbohydrate would facilitate a calorie reduction. However, carbs aren't the 'all evil' that some people make them out to be. Carbohydrate is the primary fuel source, particularly during exercise. As a guide, around 50-60% of your diet should come from carbohydrate which should be as part of a balanced diet with protein and fat. Essentially cutting carbs could be beneficial, especially if you have fallen in to over-eating and uncontrollable portion sizes but cutting carbs should not be common practice; it's about getting your whole diet right and making sustainable changes to avoid yo-yo back into those bad habits.

Is it true that you can put on weight when you train?

Jumping on the scales can sometimes be discouraging, especially when you've been training hard and your weight hasn't changed, or worse, it's gone up. You're not doing anything wrong, it maybe that you have put muscle on which weighs more than fat. Ideally, body composition and understanding the ratio between fat and muscle is a better measure but you might not have access to that sort of testing. Therefore, a great guide is girth measurements or how your clothes fit. We all notice when the waistband is getting a little tighter or looser.

Do you believe in dieting?

The term dieting gets a mixed reaction as people start something new and either sometimes succeed, and now that's the best way to eat, or unfortunately they fail. For me, dieting is often an interruption, an intervention to what you have been doing. This is often seen with positive changes and can really help people focus but ultimately a 'diet' needs to have longevity and turn into the norm. For example, a high protein diet may help support someone with their weight loss goals but is it sustainable or will that individual return to their old eating habits? Any 'diet' needs to be tailored to you; it's not about following others because they've had success. You may find that parts of that diet works for you and others don't. Tailor, practice and refine to suit you and your lifestyle.

Breakfast. What is the best thing to have every day?

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! We've heard this so many times but why? Getting your breakfast right is really important, start as you mean to go on but it really depends on what your goal is. Personally I'm a big fan of porridge with some berries, first it tastes great but most importantly it contains all three macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein and fat) in an appropriate balance.

How much water should you drink on a daily basis?

The human body is 60% water and we couldn't survive without it. Maintaining your fluid balance is vital. As a guide try and consume between 2-3 litres per day. Your fluid consumption will come from both fluid and foods but try to drink little and often. Yes, like food you can over do it but the frequent toilet trips will help you gauge whether you are drinking too much. Other drinks like tea and coffee will all add to your daily total but be aware that other nutrients are found in these drinks.

How does drinking alcohol effect weight loss?

Drinking alcohol is a lifestyle choice and has no benefit to exercise. It's not that if you like the odd tipple you are doing harm but use it as a treat. It's always good to include a few treats or cheats within the week to keep you focused on your plan. Everything in moderation. Alcohol is also abundant with calories, calories that you might not want.

What are the biggest do's and don'ts when it comes to nutrition?

Nutrition shouldn't be viewed as a dark art. It should be simple, the easier it is the easier it'll be to achieve your target. Like training, plan your nutrition, make goals both short and long term. Here are some of my top tips to get you started:

•Plan your nutrition to achieve your goal. Plan the month, week and day.

•Avoid an empty fridge. Stock it with foods on your plan. If it's in the house you'll eat it.

•Take your lunch and snacks with you to work.

•Portion sizes - are you eating the right amounts of food? It's not restaurant portions it's portion sizes that relate to you and your plan.

•Protein - add protein to every meal. That should be based on 0.8 grams per kg of body weight. The more you do the more you need.

Do you have any tips on staying motivated?

So many people start and fail. The best way to give yourself a chance is to set some goals. Goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound, exciting and recorded. To make it work you need to make lifestyle changes but changes you can stick to. Allow yourself a treat now and again, it won't ruin your plan, on the contrary it will support it. Take it day by day and where possible make it enjoyable.