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What does Functional Nutrition really mean and why is it so significant?

Eating right in a loaddown the Thomas Robson-Kanu way.

What does Functional Nutrition really mean and why is it so significant?

Although it might sound technical, functional nutrition is actually a really simple idea – that diets should include foods which have a purpose and be tailored specifically to who we are.

We’re all born different. Different genetic make ups, with different upbringings, habits and goals. And really if you think about it, it makes sense that your nutritional intake is dependent on those factors – more so than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ diet plan you found in the back of a magazine!

There’s really no point going on a ‘diet’ if you don’t stick to it. That’s why I like thinking about effective nutrition as functional. Because it encompasses a more holistic view of an individual’s general wellbeing rather than single metrics such as weight – diets based on which can lead to unsustainable fluctuations in weight and mood.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, nor should everyone be expected to eat the same lunch! So, always be weary of diet fads that promise you the world…

How can it be applied?

There’s a story in Buddhism of a student who asks his master, “what is enlightenment?”

His teacher replies, “When hungry, eat. When tired, sleep.”

I love this, because it speaks to the holistic approach to wellbeing that functional nutrition offers – it’s all about listening to your body, and it’s not easy to do because of the challenges everyone faces in day to day life.

But, the right foods for you should help you sleep better at night, feel more active and awake during the days and have a positive impact on your mood in general, but the biggest benefit of incorporating functional nutrition into your life is the positive impact it will have on the quality of your health long term, we’ve all heard that saying you are what you eat, right?

Taking a more holistic approach to your health and wellbeing, like anything, is a habit you can get into as long as you’re motivated to. Writing a journal or using a wearable like a Fitbit or Oura ring can be really helpful in tracking how certain foods or drinks make you feel and also help you make positive changes.

You don’t want to live a life obsessed with metrics though, remember it’s all a balance and a number is never going to make you happy!

For a deeper understanding of yourself, a nutritionist who understands the benefits of raw and unprocessed foods (which most do!) can help you figure out what your body might need more or less of and give you helpful, convenient dietary pointers too.

I’d always recommend seeing one for a one-off appointment – it’s your life, why not?!

What is the significance of home wellness in particular during the current period?

During the current period it is more important than ever that we do whatever we can to boost and optimise our health in order to increase our immunity.
It is also so important that we stay mentally and physically active in order to help support our mental health, keep motivated and reduce stress in a time of uncertainty and change.
We can do this by eating nutrition rich foods, going for walks and taking part in regular exercise. Ensuring that you have a regular routine that includes variety and mindfulness techniques are also good.

How can we eat to improve our wellness at home?
What we eat can have a profound effect on our bodies and there is the ability that we can eat to boost and support certain functions, whether it be to energise, boost our immunity and stress release.
What you consume affects your emotional health just as much as it influences your physical and mental health. And although it might be tempting to reach for some of your favourite comfort foods when feeling low, studies suggest that eating unprocessed plant-based foods is a great way to keep the blues away. Why not fill your plate with dark leafy greens that are rich in the mood-moderating mineral magnesium. Those of us who get more magnesium in our diet tend to be happier as magnesium stimulates receptors of a calming hormone called GABA and inhibits the stress hormone cortisol, thereby reducing feelings of anxiety and worry. To help you reach your daily magnesium requirements, load up on greens, avocados, legumes, whole grains, and dark chocolate!

Certain foods can help boost your brain function and the curcumin in turmeric serotonin and dopamine, chemical happiness. Messengers of the nervous system. They carry information relating to happiness, wellbeing, appetite, emotions, cognitive function and more. The curcumin in turmeric in particular boosts the production of these chemicals in the brain, resulting in the increase of. Combine this curcumin with the right environment and you’ve got yourself a recipe for absolute focus and concentration, perfect for those working at home a d feeling frequently distracted.
Significantly Turmeric in particular also contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals that are known to boost the immune system, fight infections and even heal wounds. This is why eating a healthy diet that includes a daily dose of turmeric can be hugely beneficial for both our mental and physical health, as they are so closely intertwined.

Do you burn more fat when you skip breakfast and train first thing?

I hate training on an empty stomach, I don’t know how people do it!

I know there are athletes out there who swear by it, but personally I feel far more energised in the morning once I’ve eaten.

Especially if I’m exercising, I’ll make sure I’m washing down a nice bowl of raw nuts and fresh fruit with a trusty The Turmeric Co. Shot! (The Raw Turmeric & Ginger shot being my go to option).

For me it’s all about finding a rhythm. A routine that suits you – that’s the key. If you like waking up at 4am and bashing out a 2-hour swim on an empty stomach, enjoy yourself but I’ll be tucked up warm in bed and will be starting my workout at a reasonable time and not in a state of nutrient deficiency!

Does eating small meals frequently keep your metabolism high?

Again, that really depends on you.

Are you exercising in between snacks? Are you snacking on natural, healthy foods or binging on the sweet stuff? And what are the core nutrients you are snacking on, carbs, fats, proteins? Or a combination of all three?

It’s all about balance. Small natural snacks can help keep your metabolism ticking over between meals, but there’s by no means a singular approach.

We all metabolise carbs, fats and proteins differently. So first step is to become conscious and ‘body-aware’. Then try things which you understand might make you feel better, and through this process you will find what’s right for you.

Do you really need to wait an hour after a big meal to train?

At the risk of repeating myself, it really depends on you! But I think this is probably less to do with the foods or nutrients you’re eating, and more to do with the body’s digestive functions. So, I will leave this one for a trained gastroenterologist as I’m sure they will be able to advise on this a little better than me J

I will say this however, getting to know and understand your body is the best thing you can do for your health and well-being. My personal experience as a rule of thumb is it’s best to leave at least half an hour after a meal before heavy exercise – especially swimming!

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