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5 Foods I Cut From My Paralympic Diet

Success at the highest level of anything, including Paralympic sport, requires a level of dedication that is equally high. So, while I need to be constantly developing my skills and fitness through training, diet and nutrition is equally as important. And quite often, it’s not what I eat that is the most important, it’s what I don’t eat. So, as I speed down the road to Rio, here are five foods I’ve cut from my Paralympic diet.

1. Wheat

That’s right, wheat is in a lot of your everyday processed foods and what a lot of people are yet to realise is that it has addictive properties as well as a protein called gliadin which stimulates the appetite for days after you’ve eaten the food. Wheat also contains phytates which has a negative effect on digestion and blocks zinc and iron absorption. This is part of the reason so much of today’s population are anaemic, have low immunity and are prone to skin rashes. You can read more about wheat in a terrific and informative book titled ‘Wheat Belly’. Eating more unprocessed, whole foods is my suggested alternative to wheat.

2. Refined Sugar

Everyone knows that foods that are high in sugar are damaging, but what a lot of people aren’t aware of is that sugar is also in almost every single processed food. While sugar obviously enhances a foods flavour, added sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever. In addition to this, consuming sugar can lead to insulin resistance which is believed to be a top cause of diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Sugar is highly inflammatory and research suggests that excess consumption of sugar can increase risk of cancer. Lastly, when you eat sugar it releases dopamine in your brain, making it highly addictive. So while I have cut foods that are high in sugar from my diet, this doesn’t mean that I don’t eat any sweet foods whatsoever. In fact, I absolutely love fruit and when I make smoothies or desserts I’ll add honey, maple syrup and stevia. These natural sweeteners taste incredible and have health benefits unlike refined sugar.

3. Alcohol

Okay, so this one is a no-brainer, but I’m going to add it to the list anyway. I have been making a big effort to avoid a casual beer with mates or a leisurely glass of wine at dinner, even if it does have health benefits from antioxidants. Drinking alcohol impairs muscle growth, meaning that if I have a big night with the boys or even just a casual drink or two, it will reduce the effectiveness and the results garnered from all the hard work I put in at the gym. The first personal trainer I ever had told me that one big night out will set back my training by 2 weeks! At this stage of my career I can’t afford to backtrack a single day of training, let alone two whole weeks. Other negative effects of alcohol include depleting energy, extreme dehydration and a mass excess of empty calories which reduce the effectiveness of the strict nutrition regimen that I follow. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the occasional drink and am not suggesting that everyone must live a life completely free of alcohol, but in my preparation for Rio, my body will be an alcohol free zone.

4. Dairy

You might be thinking; isn’t dairy good for athletes because of the calcium and protein for muscle repair? Yes, dairy does contain some beneficial nutrients, but unfortunately the cons outweigh the pros. Dairy intake has been linked to prostate, ovarian and breast cancer. In addition to this, dairy can contribute to antibiotic resistance due to most inorganic dairy farms pumping their cows full of antibiotics and hormones because of the terrible conditions in which the dairy cows are kept. Another important piece of information that many people are unaware of is that the majority of Earth’s population are lactose intolerant, however you may be unaware of the symptoms if you have been consuming dairy products from a very young age, in which case these symptoms may just seem like the minutia of everyday life. So for these reasons, try and limit your dairy intake not just during preparation for training but in everyday life. If you do choose to include dairy in your diet, make sure that it’s from an organic farm where you know the animals are treated humanely: it’s better for you and better for the cows!

5. Vegetable oils

The vegetable oils you should approach with caution are soybean oil, sunflower oil, corn oil and canola oil (FYI, these are often marketed as simply ‘vegetable oil’ when they are mixed). The reason I avoid these oils at all cost is because they are loaded with trans fats which are highly toxic for our bodies. Vegetable oils increase the risk of heart disease, which may be contrary to what you’ve been told before, but the new research is showing that saturated fat from butter and coconut oil are not to blame for the dramatic increase in our populations heart disease; rather it is vegetable oils and margarines that are responsible. Vegetable oils are high in omega 6’s which are unstable and toxic when cooked at high temperatures which increases risk of cancer and is linked with other nasty diseases. So the next time you throw on your chefs apron, consider using butter or ghee over vegetable oils – your body will thank you.

Be sure to follow my progress to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games through my regular web updates and check out my upcoming tournament schedule here!

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