Passionate about all things food and fitness, Alice Liveing – or ‘Clean Eating Alice’ as she’s more popularly known – is an Instagram sensation, Personal Trainer (Level 3 REPs accredited) and author of bestselling book ‘The Body Bible’. Here she offers her top nutrition tips:
The benefits of good quality protein
About 17-20% of the body is made up of protein. It forms the building blocks, with many uses from growth and tissue repair to improving the immune function, making essential hormones and preserving lean muscle mass. But protein is not only important for its nutritional benefits – it’s also the most satiating of all the macronutrients, meaning that a protein-rich meal will keep you feeling fuller for longer! Eating a good amount of protein, especially when exercising, will ensure your muscles are able to repair and recover efficiently. If you’re exercising regularly, I’d recommend eating at least 1.2g of protein daily per kg of your bodyweight, aiming for a wide variety of sources – get it from meat, fish, dairy and legumes, too.
The role of carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy or fuel. I use the example of filling your car’s fuel tank… we wouldn’t go on a long drive without topping up on petrol, so we shouldn’t expect our bodies to do the same! Carbohydrates can be found in all forms, but I try to stick to complex carbs. These are things such as oats, rye bread, wholegrain rice, sweet potatoes and quinoa. They are my preferred choice as they're both nutrient-dense, with many being rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals too, but also due to their slow release of energy into the bloodstream. This ensures your energy levels are kept constant, avoiding blood sugar highs and lows that wreak havoc on your performance and mood. Consuming carbs around exercise is particularly important, as our glycogen – a source of energy found in muscles – becomes depleted; carbohydrates will help restore this, for optimal recovery.
Overeating ‘healthy’ foods
While it’s brilliant how much more aware everyone is becoming about what foods are good for our health, I often feel this can be seen as a green light to people to consume copious amounts of these ‘healthy’ foods. Certainly, including sources of nutrient-dense healthy fats in our diet – Greek yogurt, avocados, nuts – is extremely beneficial, it’s important to remember that these foods are incredibly calorie-dense too! Over-consuming them can, therefore, lead to weight gain. I always just encourage people to be mindful of portion control, as it’s easy to overdo it!
Eat the rainbow!
It sounds obvious, but deficiencies in certain micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) can have serious health implications. Ensuring you eat a wide variety of vegetables and grains, as well as lean proteins and oily fish, will ensure you are enriching your body with as many varied nutrients as possible. In addition to this, vegetables contain phytonutrients, which are potentially protective against immune disorders and chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease – all the more reason to load up on some delicious multi-coloured veggies!
My favourite pre-workout foods
I never advise anyone to train on an empty stomach. To get the most out of your session, you want to feel energised and fuelled – to give 100% to whatever you’re doing. I try to avoid coffee throughout the day, but enjoy is as a pre-workout pick-me-up – incorporated into this smoothie, it makes for the perfect fuel:
– I add 1-2 tsp of instant coffee, 1 tsp of cacao, a frozen banana cut into chunks, some ice cubes and 200ml of almond milk to the blender, for a frothy pre-workout mocha that tastes absolutely delicious!
My favourite post-workout foods
After a workout, it’s important to replenish the glycogen in your muscles – which becomes depleted during exercise – and also to consume some good quality protein, to ensure you’re enabling your body to repair and recover efficiently. One of my favourite post-workout foods is therefore my Chicken Nuggets with a Twist recipe (on page 110 of my book, 'The Body Bible'). These are a super-simple, healthy alternative to the shop-bought variety and ensure you’re getting a good combination of protein and complex carbohydrates… paired with some roasted sweet potato and greens, this is my idea of food heaven!
Don’t panic if you’re a busy bee and often find yourself with little time to spend making or even eating food. I always think it’s best to keep things simple, for example by preparing some overnight oats the night before, which you then can simply grab as you fly of out the door! So, before going to bed, try mixing your oats with some almond milk, add some fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey, then leave in the fridge overnight so the oats soak up the moisture. Other great options include things like fresh fruit, nuts and Greek yogurt for snacks, and whey protein as a convenience tool as and when you need it. My go-to quick meals also include things like a stir-fry, scrambled eggs and my super-simple chilli recipe, which all take minimal time and effort!
Don’t feel that because you’re not working out, you somehow have to dramatically reduce your intake of food! I personally often feel more hungry on rest days than when I’m busy in the gym etc. And it’s important to continue to eat a good balance of foods on rest days as well as training days, to ensure you have a balanced approach to your eating that doesn’t have to dramatically change due to exercise!
Is there such a thing as a superfood?
Don’t be swept up in the superfood hype – believing that because you ate goji berries, for example, you will somehow miraculously become a health god or goddess and cure all your ailments! Yes, some of the claims show that certain foods do tend to have increased amounts of antioxidants and phytonutrients, which have been shown to be beneficial to our health – but simply incorporating them into a balanced diet is enough to ensure you’re getting their benefits, without doing any crazy detoxes or spending a fortune on expensive produce
The 80/20 rule
Eating well makes me FEEL good. However, I am a huge advocate of the saying ‘life happens’. There will be parties, birthdays and other celebrations… and enjoying these occasions is just as important to achieving a balanced, healthy lifestyle as eating well and exercising, in my opinion. For this reason, I always think it’s great to practise the 80/20 rule: for 80% of the time, I eat well, drink plenty of water, sleep soundly and exercise for my own enjoyment; but 20% of the time, I will absolutely let my hair down, enjoy a cocktail and get my exercise on the dance floor. Restriction achieves nothing, while embracing balance within your life is what ultimately brings you long-term, sustainable health and happiness!
Photography © Martin Poole.