As a nutritionist to Formula 1 drivers, an important part of my work is to get clients to their optimal weight. ‘Optimal’ is the key focus here. I am not interested in getting drivers as light as physically possible, despite there being some competitive advantages to this. I am focused on getting them as healthy as possible.
A light racing driver is useless if he or she is too undernourished to stay healthy throughout the season, to recover quickly from intense race weekends and travel, or to maintain regular training sessions. From experience of working with World Champions, a driver dedicated to health effortlessly achieves their optimal weight. And this weight strategy is no different for you or I.
There is no one optimal diet
One question I am frequently asked is what is the best diet? Well out of the hundreds of diets recorded in the $60 billion diet industry I don’t subscribe to any of them. After years of research, I can confidently say that there is no one optimal diet. And anyone that tells you otherwise often has some sort of vested interest. How can one size fit all when we are all so unique?
We have different genes, lifestyles, metabolisms and gut bacteria, all of which strongly influence our dietary requirements. Just because a specific diet is currently working well for Jim in Finance, it doesn’t mean it will suit him for life or that it is right for you. So what is the solution? Personalisation. We need to tailor diets to our unique needs and goals. And this is where the future of nutrition and healthcare lies.
So how can you achieve this perfect balance between health and weight?
Personalised Nutrition is a complex science and in F1 we take this to an extreme by analysing hundreds of biomarkers in conjunction with full health and lifestyle histories and assessments. However Personalised Nutrition does not have to be all about scientific testing. We can all adopt some key principles immediately to start to learning more about the best diet for us and move towards our optimal weight.
Top 3 tips on how to start tailoring your diet to suit your bio-unique needs
1. Start listening to your body
Self awareness is one of the most important tools you have available to you. You know your body better than anyone else. The secret is to start listening. Symptoms that we ignore for years can often result in more complex health conditions. A symptom is essentially indicating that there is some kind of underlying imbalance. You can either ignore it, cover it up with medication or you can delve deeper to understand what you can do to get to the root cause. I am not asking you to turn into a hypochondriac, I am simply asking you to tap into the intelligence of your body and listen to the subtle messages it is whispering to you. Many people have heard me say that ‘you don’t just wake up with disease. Disease manifests over years, and addressing underlying imbalances early on is a key part of preventative health and performance’
If you suddenly feel overwhelmed with the long list of symptoms that you are experiencing, then this is a perfect time to start your journey to improved health. If you are not familiar with any current symptoms, here are some questions you can ask yourself:
1. How are my energy levels throughout the day?
2. Do I rely on caffeine, sugar or other stimulants to keep me going?
3. Do I have any gut related symptoms or compromised digestion e.g. indigestion, bloating, flatulence, constipation?
4. Do I have any allergies, food intolerances, asthma, eczema or skin issues?
5. How is my immunity? Do I get frequent infections, colds or flu?
6. Am I aware of which foods affect me and how they make me feel?
7. Am I within 2.5kg of my desired weight?
8. Do I have any specific health conditions or concerns?
Start tuning in, and we can address these topics and what you can do about them in later blogs. Also feel free to write in with a question.
2. Figure out your goals
Once you have thought about your symptoms and what your body is telling you, think about your health and fitness goals. Do you really want to run a marathon without addressing your underlying issues of fatigue or knowing how to fuel properly around your training sessions?
1. What do you want for your health and well-being in 2016?
2. What do you need to do to make this happen?
3. What support systems do you need to put in place?
3. Take a snapshot of where you are now
In all our personalised nutrition programmes whether for individual or corporate clients, the starting point is to identify where you are now. This can require some honesty. We often convince ourselves that we exercise 5 x week, don’t eat junk food and go to bed at 10.30pm, but it is not until you keep a diary that you find out your reality. Many people discover that their exceptions are much more frequent than they think.
I challenge you to record some key habits over the next 7 days. Start today and keep it simple.
If you decide to follow my 3 top tips by recording your symptoms, goals and habits, then this will mark the start of your very own Personalised Nutrition journey.
Written by: Helene Patounas, Head of Nutrition, Hintsa Science Team