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Nutrition Secrets from our Head Dietitian
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Nutrition Secrets from our Head Dietitian

Confused as to which protein powder to take? Not sure how much to eat to lose weight? How can your expensive collagen powder be more easily absorbed? Our Head Dietitian, Tara Kaff, answers your questions.

The field of nutrition can be complicated for anyone, let alone people just starting out on their health and fitness journeys.

From knowing how many calories to consume, what to consume, what to avoid, how to choose supplements, how to lose weight; the questions are endless.

Even more confusing is the plethora of inaccurate information that gets filtered down throughout social media, easily found with a quick Google search.

In fact, studies have revealed that only 1 in 9 “health and fitness” influencers give correct advice that can be backed by science.

It’s a worrying statistic and it's why people should instead be speaking to experts in the field – but that in itself leads to a whole other issue. Dietitians and nutritionists can often be expensive, not available in certain areas, or, if COVID-19 sticks around, impossible to visit in person.

To solve this dilemma, we turned to our Head Dietitian and New Product Development Coordinator, Tara Kaff, who's a wealth of knowledge on all things nutrition and diet.

From knowing which protein powder to choose, how to get the most out of your collagen supplements, favourite go-to nutritious recipes, or knowing how much to eat to lose weight, here are all your questions answered from a source you can trust.

How much do I have to eat to lose weight?

Tara says one of the fundamental things she wishes people knew about nutrition was that they have to eat enough, not necessarily less.

“I know a lot of people who try to lose weight but they’re not actually eating enough,” she says.

“People go on 1200-calorie diets, expecting to lose weight, but that’s just not enough, that’s the energy requirements of a two-year-old.”

“This causes metabolic damage, because as your body adapts to such low calories, weight loss will plateau because people simply can’t eat any lower without it being really detrimental for their health”

“So eating enough of the right foods is really important.”

What is something you wish people knew that would make their nutrition journey’s easier?

“Know about the products you are consuming,” Tara says.

“For example, a lot of people are purchasing collagen nowadays, but not many people know that if you have vitamin C with it, it can allow the collagen to be better absorbed, working better within the body.”

“Matching other nutrients with their preferred nutrients is really important – like I said before, a lot of people don’t know that opting for a combined pea and rice protein is better.”

Tara is also big on balance. She says that one of the most frustrating things is people cutting out whole sections of their diet, only for it to lead to binging when they can no longer deal with the restriction.

“I find with a lot of people trying to lose weight, their first initial reaction is to restrict all these foods, but then they come to three weeks into their weight loss journey and they’ll be craving that food.”

“Instead of just having one cookie every night for the past two weeks, they’ll binge and eat a whole box, and that hinders them and they take five steps backward,” she says.

“If you want ice cream, have ice cream every second night, and just make sure you have the correct portion sizes.

“Balance is key.”

Do I need to be taking protein powder? Or other supplements?

Tara stresses that a “food first” approach is always beneficial, with the necessary macro and micronutrients always able to be found from food alone.

“But the world these days is always go, go, go, and in this day and age people are so busy and require a quick and convenient source of nutrition,” she says.

“That’s where supplements such as protein powder come in.”

“If people are too busy and don’t have time to prioritise good nutrition, then reaching for supplements to get those nutritional benefits can be highly advantageous.”

How do I choose the right protein powder for my body?

Tara says to always consider the ingredients of what you’re consuming.

“The lesser the ingredients, the better, and where possible, reach for certified organic or from a natural whole food source.”

“If you’re taking protein to put on or maintain muscle, then choose the proteins that have a minimum of two grams of leucine per serve.”

Leucine is an essential amino acid that can assist with protein synthesis, regulating blood sugar levels, growth and repair of muscle tissue and growth in hormone production.

Protein powders should also have between 20-30 grams of protein per serve.

Tara also recommends opting for a plant-based protein over other sources such as whey.

“The difference between pea, rice or other plant proteins is that it also has the additional benefits of being a plant – so it’s not solely just a protein source, but you’re getting a whole range of micronutrients,” she says.

“But often with plant sources, it will just be either a rice or a pea protein, so you don’t get that full amino acid profile.

“So, where possible, opt for pea and rice combined plant-based protein, then you’re getting all the micronutrients and the full amino acid profile.”

How can people stay motivated during Covid-19 restrictions?

“For me personally, how I’ve stayed motivated during this time is that now is the perfect time to get outdoors and exercise in the fresh air,” Tara says.

“If possible, opt to exercise with a friend. Although restrictions dictate we can only spend time with a certain number of people, if you just have one person to exercise with, it keeps you accountable with both nutrition and exercise.”

“So getting a little buddy is always really motivating from an accountability perspective.”

What does a day on a plate look like for you? Has this changed because of lockdown?

“I’ve been able to maintain my training intensity similar to what it was pre gyms closing, so not much in my diet has changed,” Tara says.

For the dietician, this is what a day on a plate often looks like.

Pre-Training snack: 2x fruit toast with a black coffee

Breakfast: Porridge and blueberries with Amazonia’s Raw Slim & Tone Protein shake

Snack: Protein muesli bar and an apple

Lunch: Whole-wheat wrap with cheese, egg, tomato, onion, capsicum and spinach

Snack: Small tub of high protein yoghurt with fruit free muesli and fresh fruit

Dinner: Turkey mince salad with feta cheese and balsamic vinegar dressing either with brown rice or a whole-grain bread roll

What is a good after workout meal?

Post-Training Smoothie Bowl:

Blend all ingredients into a blender and top with fruit free muesli or granola.

This story was originally published in Bondi Beauty.

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