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Combat the mindset of Aesthetics vs. Wellness

Good as Gold's Podcast EP11

Gabby Ward is your go-to when it comes to all things food and nutrition around your training. She is an accredited practicing dietitian and an accredited sports dietician, and while she works with a broad range of clients a lot of those fall under CrossFit, weightlifting and powerlifting athletes. This week Cal and Em sit down with Gabby on the Good as Gold’s podcast to discuss the importance of wellness over aesthetics, and how to fuel your body correctly.

Gabby helps people optimise their food intake to not only match what their requirements are but to also make sure they are thriving in whatever activities they are doing. Too often, she is seeing people who are suffering from low energy availability.

“So when we were talking about your energy expenditure or the energy requirements, that’s making sure that you’re matching those two up. Low energy availability means that you aren’t getting enough energy, so you’re not getting in enough food to fuel all the activities that you’re doing and so therefore there’s a mismatch, and that doesn’t always necessarily look like being in a calorie deficit and we can start to see that taking a bit more of a toll on not only your performance, but also your health and wellbeing in the long term. So pretty much a mismatch between what you’re giving in your body compared to what it needs.”

She says our body will often give us warning signs, as it usually whispers before it screams!

“Some of the symptoms of low energy availability might be not hitting the performance, or it might be having that actual physical low energy, not having the concentration. It’s not limited to people who have low body fat either. It doesn’t discriminate from males to females and it can start off by looking like, okay, we’re just not firing on all cylinders. And then if we don’t address that, it can then become a further issue.”

While it was initially thought to mostly affect females, Gabby says it also impacts a lot of males too. She works with her clients to help rebuild this energy.

“It depends on how far into low energy availability they are and also what their symptoms are but first and foremost we need to try and match the energy intake to the energy expenditure…in extreme cases sometimes we have to go what we call ‘all in’ where we need to cut out all exercise and we need to really ramp up your calories so that your body feels safe again.”

Moving on to a much loved nutrition topic…Gabby gives us the low down on coffee and whether or not it should be consumed the moment you wake up on an empty stomach.

“If that’s going to impact what your intake is the next couple of hours, it’s probably not ideal, or if you’re someone that’s hypersensitive to caffeine and that’s either going to cause a digestive upset for a long time or peak your anxiety, that’s not going to set you up well at all for the day. It is better to have caffeine along with food because it’s just not going to have as significant an impact on that stimulation on the body. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s good or bad. It probably depends on the person and how their body responds to that.”

Often, we can curb the caffeine cravings we get later in the day with what our body is actually begging for…

“A lot of people think ‘I need a bit of a pick me up because I need energy’, but do you need a pick me up or do you actually need energy? Because what caffeine does is it binds itself to receptors that tell your body that you’re tired, so it’s blocking those, it’s telling you that you’re not fatigued. Whereas if you just had food, you would actually have energy. Caffeine doesn’t give you energy, it just tells you that you’re not fatigued.”

A lot of the work Gabby does is around the mindset of diet culture, and through her experience she believes it is changing for the positive.

“I think it’s so generational because most of us probably saw our parents dieting or we were on social media platforms where we see the classic ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’. Pretty much from the age of technology we’ve been exposed to different types of body image and then always being sold something along with that, like a different type of diet. A lot of people do come in with a lot of moral values around their food and trying to eat as clean as possible and is that mindset actually serving you and is that actually helping you to achieve what you want to achieve?”

Throughout the episode, Gabby shares so many educational insights with Cal and Em around macronutrients, micronutrients, fats, proteins and how this can all impact your hormones and the menstrual cycle for women.

“If you’re not giving your body what it needs, it’s never actually going to do what you want it to do.”

She also discusses what food freedom is to her: the willingness to be able to eat a different type of food you like without necessarily feeling an overwhelming guilt, or also on a different perspective not feeling superior because of your food choices as well.

“I guess it’s a balance between making sure that we, for the most part, are nourishing ourselves and nourishing ourselves regularly so it gives us a fighting chance of being able to accurately interpret our hunger and fullness signals and then also being able to know like, okay, well, I can have these different foods, and having them because you enjoy them.”

Gabby’s nutritional knowledge and advice in this episode is second to none. Whether you are an everyday person looking to improve your nutrition, or you’re a trained athlete, there is information in this episode that will inspire and educate everyone.

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