RETIRED international athlete David Gillick realised something vital very early in his track and field career.
He could see that nutrition was one of the keys to sporting success.
“I would look at other international 400m athletes and wonder what made them so great. Were they eating a ham salad roll for lunch?” he recalls.
Although nobody had ever given him nutrition advice, Gillick knew that his goal of breaking the 45-second barrier over 400m and representing Ireland in the 2008 Olympics would not be fuelled by ham sandwiches.
Nutrition became one of the four pillars in his plan to reach peak performance (along with mindset, exercise, and rest and recovery).
In the early days, though, eating the right food was far from enjoyable.
He remembers trying to make a healthy breakfast: “I had porridge with a scoop of protein powder. I may as well have taken a bite out of the kitchen table — it was dry and horrible. I added a teaspoon of olive oil and nearly got sick”.
Things started to change only when he moved to Loughborough in England.
He had won gold at the European Indoor Championships in 2005 and had decided to give running a real go.
One of the first steps on that journey was consulting nutritionist Martin MacDonald.
MacDonald’s approach was all about eating real, unprocessed food to help nourish and heal the body. It had to taste good too.
“This ignited something within,” Gillick tells Feelgood. He loved talking about food, learning about it and cooking it.
He started to watch cooking shows, including MasterChef, to switch off and to learn. He never imagined then that he would go on to win Celebrity MasterChef in 2013.
That experience gave him the idea for his new book, David Gillick’s Kitchen: Good food from the track to the table, a beautiful production with a simple message: eat real, unprocessed food.
Gillick doesn’t like the term ‘diet’; it sounds too restricting and can get confusing as people often just don’t know what to eat.
“I have tried most diets, including gluten-free and paleo. They all have their merits, but personally I feel that a balance works well as long as the focus is on real, unprocessed food. I had my best years when I put this philosophy into practice.”
People often assumed he “ate like a horse” when training but, in fact, he says his calorie intake wasn’t too far off the recommended 2,500 calories a day.
Now that he has retired, he says he has gone from being a full-time elite athlete to “an elite” in the kitchen. But “elite” does not mean that he is a complex cook.
Gillick’s book keeps food simple and straightforward and it’s packed full of recipes that are super healthy and, as important, delicious.
There’s a big focus on breakfast — with recipes for smoothies, muesli, muffins, bread and pancakes — and advice about never skipping the most important meal of the day.
There’s lots of advice too about how to prepare healthy snacks and side dishes as well as healthy recipes for lunch, dinner, even dessert, including Gilly’s chocolate cake and cashew nut butter and banana ice cream.
However, all recipes are underpinned by Gillick’s key principles of healthy eating.
* Eat real food: If it swam, ran, flew or grew, eat it.
* Don’t skip meals: Try not to go long periods without eating.
* Vary your intake of food: Don’t just stick to the same foods — try to regularly vary what you’re eating.
* The more colour, the better: When it comes to fruit and veg, eat a variety of colour — a rainbow plate.
* Be wary of so-called ‘low-fat’ products: Generally, they are over-processed and contain lots of sugar, preservatives and additives.
* Stay away from sugar: This will keep your insulin levels stable which, in turn, will keep hunger under control. It will also keep your energy levels more constant.
* Include good fats: Always aim to include a source of good fat in your meal, such as nuts, seeds, olives, feta cheese. and avocados.
* Reward yourself with a treat occasionally: It’s very common for people to have a treat meal once a week, so enjoy it and then get back on the wagon.
WANT to know how you can be happier and healthier?
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It works on the assumption that it’s the small actions, built up over time, that make the biggest difference and serves up daily suggestions — from food guru Jamie Oliver and mindfulness and exercise experts — that are easy to achieve.
So no swearing off carbs for a lifetime. The road to happiness is paved with tiny sensible steps.
Good for you
WHAT does healthy eating really mean?
Celebrity chef Neven Maguire is asked that all the time so he has just released The Nation’s Favourite Healthy Food (Gill and Macmillan, €22.99) to help people navigate their way through the complex world of nutrition.
This new collection of 100 recipes includes low-carb lunches, omega 3-rich suppers, and vegetable juices. There are also options for those with food intolerances.
HEAD west this weekend for the 2015 Dingle Food Festival, a three-day event jampacked with workshops, cookery demos, wine tasting, and entertainment.
One of the highlights is a taste trail that winds its way through 80 restaurants, cafes, and pubs in the town. Sample anything from Tandoori Dingle Bay prawns and monkfish curry to lemon and Dingle gin cheesecake. A book of 10 tickets costs €22.
Watch out for chefs on bicycles too. During the second Dingle Invitational Culinary Pentathlon, students will run and cycle through the town in search of the best local ingredients before cooking a a two-course lunch for judges.
More on www.dinglefood.com
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