A beginner athlete will often have many questions, one of them being ‘what should I eat to get a body like so-and-so’. One thing Roark athletes realize very quickly is that in order to be able to use your body, you need to feed it properly. By this we don’t mean carbo-load or protein shake or take supplements or even cutting carbs – we mean understanding how your body works and what it needs to deal with the level of work required. That level is dependent on what you wish to get out of your body, that is, the goal that you set for yourself.

Athletes have different goals. Some wish to compete in marathons, others wish to compete in martial arts tournaments, others train to give them better performance during hip hop class, and some train simply to maintain their ideal physical condition. Regardless of your goal, when you start training properly, you’ll soon know whether you are feeding yourself correctly by how your body responds when it’s put under pressure. Diets that are high in sugar and processed foods will feel weak and shaky soon into a workout, while an athlete who eats a diet high in vegetables and quality protein will find that she can push herself further and to more intense levels, and will consequently enjoy better results in both form and function.

That’s not to say you cannot have sugar or cake or a treat – you’ll find that when you’re eating properly and training to the best of your ability that those occasional treats are averaged out by your better choices. So what do we mean by eating properly? We don’t like to be too prescriptive about what our athletes eat. We believe part of your journey is to work with and listen to your body, and to find that out for yourself. But if you’re looking for some guidance when it comes to meals that both fill you up, are delicious and will add to your training, look to your body itself when it comes to determining whether you will get something out of what you want to eat.

The body is a complex system that is built to move and expend energy. We have evolved from ancestors who ran miles and miles each day, simply because that was required of them. They were intensely physical, they built their own homes, carried their children everywhere and had to adapt to different extremes in environment, including temperature, eating patterns and food available to them. That last bit is key – our ancestors did not have the option of picking up a ready-made microwave meal filled with saturated fats and sugars to make its contents taste better. Nor did they have the means to farm grain and process it in order to make white bread on which they could slap cheese and tomato and call it a sandwich. They certainly didn’t eat cupcakes with tea during a 3pm slump. So your body is unlikely to respond to these foods well, since it’s unnatural for us to be eating this way.

Somehow, there are myths about diet that have endured and penetrated conventional wisdom. Some of these myths include that in order to do long cardio we must carbo load, and in order to lose weight we should switch to whole grains and cut out dairy. While these myths have a reason for becoming so popular, we encourage out athletes to do their own research before they take conventional wisdom as fact. Forget the food pyramid and stop looking at food packaging for guidance – the recentVitamin Water / Coca Cola debacle has proved how misleading this can be Don’t order the health breakfast just because it has the word ‘health’ in it – muesli, fruit salad, yoghurt and honey is favoured by body builders because of its high calorie content, which can stand in the way of an athlete who is working towards becoming lighter. Don’t think that because something is ‘sugar-free’ or ‘wholewheat’ it’s helping you achieve your goals. Remember that marketers and advertising messages have a vested interest in you buying their products, so they cannot be taken as objective wisdom. Become a student of your diet, for what you put into your body has an effect on everything from your mind to your performance.

There are many eating ideas available to you as an athlete these days. Some will work for you and others may not. We encourage you putting them into practice and trying them to see for yourself. If your goal is to run a marathon or compete in a triathlon, you’ll be looking to develop your strength while staying light, hence a low-starch, high plant-fat, high protein and vegetable diet (known to many as the Paleo diet) will work well for you. If it’s your goal to compete in a form of physical combat, having strength and weight will work to your advantage, in which case eating whole grain starches will help you add bulk to your frame, and your training will convert that bulk into muscle.

Whatever your goal, we will always be available to advise you, and will stop at nothing to help you achieve your goals as long as you commit to doing the same.

Forget the idea that some foods are ‘good foods’ or ‘bad foods’, that you can only eat certain things when you are on a diet, in order to look a certain way. Select food based on the positive nutrients they will bring to your body and how they will help you achieve your training goals, and consequently your life. Eating in this way will free you from calorie counting, or dieting, or depravation, none of which will help you reach your goals sustainably. Eating to gain, instead of lose, will steadily shift your mindset from one of lack to that of endless possibility.

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