Max Tomlinson

Max Tomlinson

The 'Nature Doctor,' a qualified naturopath, nutritionist, homeopath and medical herbalist, believes "It's about maintaining your wellbeing and your health."

Raise Your Game: How did you first get involved in the business of food and healthy eating?

Max Tomlinson: Food has always been a passion of mine. It started for me in South Africa in the late 1980s. My dad was really ill with a heart condition and he was turned down for a heart transplant because he was so ill. We went to see a wonderful naturopath who organised for my dad to go on a good diet and my dad's health actually improved. It got me thinking that the way we feed our bodies affects how well we are in the future.

RYG: How difficult is it to actually think about what you can do on a day to day basis with food?

MT: It's so tough for young people nowadays, especially because they are heavily influenced by TV and advertising. My suggestion is to look at your body as something you have to value long-term. I look at the body as a very simple mechanism, what goes in becomes you. So if you're going to put rubbish into your body in the form of junk food, you're going to have a junk type body.

RYG: What are good foods for sport?

MT: The most important thing for sport is hydration. Most athletes know that if you are subtly dehydrated you are going to under perform. So it's getting the right fluids in, and the number one fluid is H2O - water.

A very close second are the proteins and the carbohydrates. Proteins, which are in chicken, fish, meat and beans, are the building blocks for the body and give you muscles. When you're an athlete you're training to build muscle, build endurance or build strength, and that's all about proteins.

Carbs are the fuel that allows you as an athlete to run, jump, swim, shoot, etc. It is the fuel that the muscles and brain use to run the body as an athlete.

The best forms are your complex carbohydrates. Table sugar is a simple sugar, brown rice is a complex sugar. Simple table sugar enters the bloodstream quickly, you get as high as a kite and you fall on your face. With brown rice, which is still a sugar, long chains of sugar enters the bloodstream slowly and you can run and run, and jump and jump for hours on that little bit of really good complex brown wholemeal carbohydrate.

It's important as an athlete to drink water, have protein, have carbohydrates, in as complex form as possible - so brown rice not white, and don't forget the concept of five fruit/vegetables a day.

RYG: When a young person comes home after playing a football match, for example, they're ravenous. What's a good thing for them to eat?

MT: To be healthy you need to have five pieces of fruit and veg a day. I recommend athletes have three pieces of fruit and two veg. So you're ravenous as you've just done an hour and half of football training, you get home and you think 'Oh I'm a little hypoglycemic.' (Low blood sugar). 'Oh I have to eat.' Go and replenish your sugars immediately with a bit of fruit and some water.

Now that to me makes perfect sense, rather than coming home, raiding the fridge and making some toast with jam or drinking some fruit juice. As an athlete you're in training, so treat your body like the temple it's meant to be, have a bit of fruit to replenish supplies.

RYG: What can you say to young girls who say 'I have to diet because I want to be slim?

MT: The easiest way to lose weight is not to put it on in the first place. Take control now and don't put the weight on.

The second thing is it's not about weight loss, it's about maintaining your wellbeing and your health. Health is that sparkle you can see in people's eyes. You want to be the dynamic, vibrant, energized and cool human being, and that takes good nutrition.

RYG: Is it important to set yourself goals, and if so what simple goals can you suggest?

MT: I love simple goals. You cannot achieve weight loss, or anything in life, I don't think, without setting yourself some goals. Now we're not talking about sitting down and writing out lengthy goals and focusing on them daily. It's about setting yourself small goals that you can achieve.

Firstly, commit to having breakfast. Breakfast wakes the body up. If you don't have breakfast, your metabolism stays asleep because you've been sleeping the whole night and your metabolism stays quite slow. You then have lunch which wakes up your metabolism. By dinner you're starving because your metabolism is really now on fire. You eat a huge dinner, go to bed and end up lying in bed digesting and not resting.

Secondly, try not to snack. If you do have to snack choose to have fruit between meals. This brings us on to our third goal of eating five fruit or veg a day.

The fourth goal is just say no. I know there's the just say no to drugs campaign, let's expand that slightly because sugar is a bit of a drug. Just say no to some form of sugar everyday.

The final fifth goal is move it and lose it. Commit to doing some exercise, walk to school and walk home if it's safe and you're comfortable doing it, or make sure you go down to the local pool and have a swim every day, or play football with your friends.

RYG: What type of foods would you suggest for different kinds of sport?

MT: Different athletes and different types of sport need different food groups. If you are, for example, a swimmer, the last thing you want to do is to get into the pool with a tummy full of food and swim your lengths because you're going to end up with a stitch and be in trouble.

The basic fuel for the body, no matter what type of athletics you're doing, is pretty much the same. Carbohydrates are the energy that runs the muscle so it's important to get the right kind of carbohydrates in and proteins are the building blocks of strong muscles.

RYG: What is your advice to young people about what food to eat?

MT: Remember that you're doing a good job. It's really hard to eat well. What you eat is dependant on mum or dad, dependant on other people buying food. So just be calm about this, take your time to think about what it is you enjoy eating and then take that back to it's natural form as much as possible. So if you like sugar, take it back to natural sugar if you can. If you like pasta, take it back to a wholemeal pasta. If you love crisps, take it back to a natural crisp, etc. Just think about how to make your diet more natural and less processed because long term you're going to reap the benefits.

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