He recommends switching sugary breakfast cereals for high-protein alternatives such as boiled eggs or low-fat Greek yoghurt topped with berries and crushed nuts. Ditch creamy sauces for those that are tomato or stock-based and opt for wholegrain pasta, bread and rice (while also eating less of these foods in favour of lean proteins, healthy fats and vegetables). Foods with a high water content such as soups, stews or tagines can also help to keep you feeling full on fewer calories.
“Some find it easier to stick to their weight loss plan if they allow themselves a ‘free’ day when they can eat what they like. It may take a little longer to lose weight but if it helps you stick to your long-term goal then so be it,” he says. “The only diet that works is the one you know you can stick to.”
Instead, Hobson recommends eating a source of protein with every meal and getting even more into your body after training. “Protein shakes can be useful and you can bulk them out with other ingredients such as avocado, nuts butters, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, bananas and berries to help you to gain weight,” he says. “Carbs are just as important for weight gain so include plenty of wholegrain versions of pasta, rice and other grains as well as foods like jacket and sweet potatoes.”
He adds that in certain situations, supplements such as creatine can help, too. “This helps with bursts of short-term, high-intensity exercise to support increased muscle mass and strength,” he says, advising an initial loading phase, or intake, of 20g per day for a week followed by a lower dose of 5g a day.
Enhance your sex life
Given that blood flow lies at the heart of sexual health, he recommends foods focused on heart health. “In men, the arteries and capillaries going into the genitals are among the thinnest in the body, so when they start to get blocked it can lead to erectile impairment – we want to keep that blood flowing,” he says, adding that enriching your diet with nuts and seeds which contain circulation boosting L-arginine, as well as fruits such as apples and strawberries that are high in flavonoids – known to promote lower blood pressure. “Oysters are considered an aphrodisiac because they contain zinc, which is known to help with circulation, but look for other foods such as some seeds and meats that also contain zinc,” he says. “Elsewhere, salmon is known to be rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have numerous benefits such as lowering triglycerides.”
“The internet can point us in the direction of thousands of so-called ‘sleepy foods’,” he says, listing cherry juice, almonds and pumpkin seeds as just three examples. “But we run the risk of obsessing over these specific components, which can mean the solution then becomes part of the problem.” Instead, he advises eating a balanced, Mediterranean-style diet – larger portions of fibre, fruit and vegetables, natural starchy carbohydrates and smaller portions of white meat, fish and unsaturated fats – which is proven to boost sleep quality and sleep satisfaction.
Further easy fixes to keep firing throughout the day include keeping hydrated – Soutter explains that even mild dehydration can reduce short-term memory and impact cognition test scores – and getting off what she calls the “blood-sugar rollercoaster”.
“While it may be tempting to rely on high-sugar snacks to improve alertness, many options can result in blood-sugar highs and lows,” she says. “Low blood sugar can lead to energy slumps, lack of concentration, irritability and may stimulate further cravings for sugary ‘quick fix’ foods.” Instead, choose snacks that combine protein, fibre and a little healthy fat to slow the rate at which sugar is released into the bloodstream.
Improve your mental health
He also advises focusing on when you eat. “Skipping meals can lead to fluctuations in blood sugar levels which may affect your mood, while going without food for long periods of time will impact on energy levels and raise the risk of micronutrient deficiencies,” he says. “Stress and depression can also affect food choice, which may mean comfort foods high in sugar and bad fats. Anxiety, stress and depression may also hamper your appetite – in this case try to eat little and often and make your meals as nutritious as possible to maintain a good intake of nutrients.”
Get better skin
“Antioxidants also protect cells against free radical damage, a known cause of ageing,” she adds, pointing out that as well as citrus fruits, bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes and potatoes are also great sources. “Eating a range of different coloured fruits and vegetables ensures a wide range of different antioxidant nutrients.” Elsewhere, omega-3 fatty acids play a key role in skin health but are often lacking in our modern diets, Pearson recommends supplements to those who suffer with dry skin.