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The Relationship Between Fitness and Food by Leah Simmons

As part of our Jurlique Wellbeing Challenge, pilates teacher and  fitness guru Leah Simmons has created an exclusive fitness plan for you to take on over the next four weeks. As part of this challenge, she guest blogs about her own personal fitness journey, relationship with food and some great tips along the way.*

I started to write this article with the idea that I was going to provide a step-by-step guide to healthy eating that will help optimise your fitness routine. Essentially an overview of what you should eat and when…. Which types of food to include… Which to avoid. The more I thought about the title, the more I realised that it’s not the relationship between food and fitness that needs to be addressed. It’s the relationship between US and FOOD. The more we understand food and the effect that different foods have on our bodies, the more equipped we will be to make better choices when addressing our diet as a whole - whether we are bodybuilders-in-training or not.

So where does that leave us then? There are so many buzzwords thrown around these days like “good food”, “bad food” and “clean-eating.” If it’s not clean... then what, it’s dirty? Good, bad, clean, unclean… there is no such thing. The more you educate yourself around food, the better you will be at deciding what is right for you. And the perfect place to start is to understand the three types of macronutrients we derive from food and why we need them to keep our bodies functioning well on a daily basis.

  1. Protein. The mothership. The giver of life and lean muscle tissue. Proteins are made up of small “building blocks” called amino acids. Some we can manufacture ourselves and some we need to draw from food. The way these amino acids are strung together determines which types of proteins they make. Why are they important? Because proteins support your immune function, they transport nutrients in your body – and of course, they provide structure to your bones, skin, hair, nails and muscle. Protein-rich foods include meat, fish, dairy, eggs, legumes, beans, nuts and whole grains.
  1. Carbohydrates. Oh the dreaded carb. Such a dirty word... but why? Carbohydrates are an essential part of our diet as they provide fuel for the central nervous system and energy for our working muscles. They also contain fibre which (as surprising as it sounds) can aid in weight loss, as dietary fibre can help you feel full and it also promotes a healthy digestive system. There are two types of carbohydrates - Simple and Complex. Simple carbs are found in most processed, refined-sugar filled foods, while Complex are found in an array of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It’s WHICH kind you include in your diet that will determine the overall outcome. I think we all know the answer to THAT one then.
  1. Fat. Again, a dirty word. I wish “fat” was called something different. Fat can be your friend. Again it depends on which type you are consuming. Healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are found in foods like nuts, avocados, oily fish, some oils and seeds. These are essential to healthy bodily function. Saturated fats found in red meat, some dairy products and many commercially-prepared baked goods should be eaten sparingly and then there are the total NO-NO’s… Trans fats… don’t even go there.

So how do we navigate this treacherous food territory? I can only tell you what works for me, but it’s a pretty simple philosophy to apply. I fully believe in the 80:20 rule. This means that 80% of the time I am filling my body with healthy, nutrient-dense foods that give me the energy and vibrancy to be able to train the way I want, maintain my optimum weight and have a clarity of mind that only a great diet can afford. As for the other 20%... well, that’s when me and Mr Pinot Noir become besties and settle down for a good old catch up. Let’s face it, it’s no good scoffing down a packet of Tim Tams because they taste good at the time but then feeling guilty about it for the next 3 days. By allowing yourself to actually enjoy the foods you might deem as “naughty” it removes the guilt you feel when consuming them. So you are free to eat them, love them and rejoice in their chocolate-y goodness without feeling bad about it afterwards. Just remember, it’s all about the portion that you are consuming.

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The other question I ask myself when filling my supermarket trolley is… “IS IT FRESH?” As Jamie Oliver once said… “Look at the list of ingredients - if it reads like a chemistry experiment then put it down. If you could grab them out of your nan’s cupboard, it’s pukka.” (I think that means “good” in Jamie-speak). Eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. Avoid over-processed, high-saturated fat, refined-sugar and chemical-filled foods and replace them with fresh fruit and veggies, lean meats and fish, an array of whole grains and some good fats. You will then be on your way to living a longer, leaner and more vibrant life!!

My Day On A Plate

Wake Up - 6am
500mL of water with activated charcoal and lemon - this is a great liver cleanser and it kick-starts your digestive system. Amazing way to start the day!

Breakfast - 7am
2 x boiled eggs, 2 x pieces organic rice loaf with butter, handful of cherry tomatoes and some sauerkraut (fermented foods are amazing for your gut - think kimchi, pickles or sauerkraut) and a long black coffee.

Straight After Training - 11am
Protein Shake - 1/2 frozen banana, 1/2 cup frozen berries, 1/4 avocado, 1 x scoop protein powder (I like organic pea protein but there are many to choose from…), 1 tablespoon x coconut oil, 1 x teaspoon maca powder, 1/2 teaspoon x chia seeds, 1/2 teaspoon x flaxseeds, pinch of cinnamon, coconut water and ice.

Lunch - 1pm
Grilled chicken salad with lots of green veggies (lettuce, celery, cucumber, broccoli, beans, spinach, peas, broadbeans… whatever is in season!!) Aldd some feta or goats cheese. Sprinkle over a yummy Seed Mix (look for one that contains japanese nori flakes). Drizzle with lemon juice and organic cold-pressed olive oil.

Afternoon Snack - 3pm
Handful of Raw Almonds

Dinner - 6:30pm
Protein and veggies… but I also add some baked sweet potato or brown rice for some complex carbohydrates.

I also drink 2L of water per day - essential for flushing out your system and keeping your cells hydrated and I limit my alcohol intake to my date night with Mr Pinot Noir.

Check out the Jurlique Fitness Challenge for fitness tips, how-tos and a four week calendar to get you started.

Download the Jurlique X Leah Simmons Fitness Challenge here

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*The views contained in this Blog are those of the author and do not represent the views or opinions of Jurlique. You should seek medical advice before commencing any exercise regime.

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