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Paula Mee’s Advice On Maintaining A Healthy Diet For Achieving Peak Performance

31st Jan 2018

Peak Performance is something we strive to achieve every day but how do we combat burning out when we hit that peak? At times it can feel like an uphill battle with oneself.

We spoke to consultant dietitian, Paula Mee ahead of our Peak Performance (whilst avoiding burnout) event taking place Thursday, February 15th at The Westbury Hotel, Dublin. We discussed all things burnouts, staying in shape, and being mindful of our bodies.

What foods would you advise us to eat when we hit that 3pm slump?

Always have a fruit bowl filled with a variety of different coloured fresh fruits at your workplace. If you have a freezer in work a handful of frozen grapes are delicious. Have small bags of popcorn and mixed nuts available. Roasted edamame beans are good too. Limit the availability of treat foods such as chocolate, biscuits, pastries etc. Have mini-size options available but keep them out of sight where possible. Have cartons of fresh vegetable soup available where people can heat up a small cupful quickly.

You have previously mentioned ‘Gut Health’ is going to be a big trend in 2018, what are your best pieces of advice to keep us in shape and to keep our immune systems at optimum health?

Digestive discomfort such as bloating, distention and wind can be very common, but the good news is that for many people it can be improved through simple lifestyle changes! Although not classified as a nutrient, fibre is an essential part of a balanced diet.

Try to:

  • Eat regular meals. Smaller portion sizes may also ease symptoms
  • Limit alcohol intake to no more than eleven standard drinks per week and have at least two alcohol free days every week. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Cut down on rich or fatty foods including take-aways, chips, pizza, burgers, sausages, cheese, creamy sauces, cakes, chocolate etc. Fatty foods take longer to digest and can sit in your stomach, making you uncomfortable.


If you suffer from constipation

  • Increase your fibre intake gradually to allow your body to adjust. Include more wholegrains such as oats and wholegrain cereals, eat at least 7 portions of fruit and vegetables every day, or try adding golden linseeds to yoghurts and porridge. Titrate the dose up slowly from one teaspoon to one tablespoon.
  • Drink plenty of water each day. As well as helping to fill you up, drinking plenty of water keeps you hydrated and helps the normal functioning of your digestive system. 1.5 -2 litres is usually enough and some can be in the form of hot drinks such as herbal or black tea and coffee.


If you suffer from diarrhoea

  • Caffeine can increase intestinal motility, so limit your intake of caffeinated beverages.
  • When you have severe symptoms, try reducing fibre from wholegrain cereals and breads. In the short-term, this will help manage your symptoms.
  • Lactose can sometimes cause diarrhoea and IBS-type symptoms. See a dietitian. You may have to try lactose-free milk, yoghurts, cream and cheeses instead of ordinary versions for two to four weeks. If it makes no difference then return to using ordinary milk and dairy products
  • Avoid sugar-free sweets, mints, and gum containing sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol.


If you suffer from wind and bloating

  • Limit your intake of ‘windy’ veg such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, beans and sprouts. You don’t need to avoid them completely as they are very nutritious, just work small portions into your weekly menu and don’t eat too many at once.
  • Try reducing your intake of resistant starches. These are the starches in foods that are not completely digested by the body. Limit your intake of undercooked or reheated potato and potato products, part-baked bread, green bananas, processed foods, ready meals containing pasta or potato, dried pasta. Try to eat these foods freshly cooked and still hot. If the diarrhoea continues see your doctor.


What are your best pieces of advice to stay motivated when you feel you have reached your limit and sense a burnout creeping?

Have simple rules to help you stick to your new healthy eating plan. Remember to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, and divide the remaining half between healthy whole grains and healthy protein. Add in some good fat (like olive oil), and make sure you drink wisely (skip the sugar-sweetened drinks!) Apart from what you eat, focus on how you eat. In addition to thinking about your nutrition needs, pay the same attention to how you’re eating. Are you sitting down to eat and really enjoying your meals? Are you allowing yourself to enjoy treats in moderate amounts, realizing that you can be satisfied with a few bites instead of an entire dessert?

The most common reasons for failing to change include:

  • Setting impossible, unrealistic goals
  • Not keeping track of progress.
  • Making too many overwhelming changes at once.
  • Forgetting about the reason you are undergoing the change or choosing the wrong reason.


A recent study suggested that 76% of those who achieved success shared their goals with people. Most of us never share our goals. This simple act of telling people can help with commitment and staying on track. Real success does not come quickly and easily. We know this deep down. So be patient. Change involves us moving our goals from mere contemplation into a concrete action plan. That requires dedication and really getting stuck in. But also remembering we are human and have our bad days. Don’t throw it all in when you take a step backward. Most importantly ask yourself the question: What am I prepared to do to get there? And is that effort sufficient? It’s not enough to want to make the change. You actually have to put effort into making it happen.

Everyday online we are bombarded with infinite talk of food trends such as #clean-eating, #paleo, #lowcarb, #atkins to name but a few, and a lot of food culture claims to be based around nutrition, are these trends hugely impacting people’s choices and having an effect on their performance abilities?

Fad diets come and go. Certain people can fall foul of popular diets that over promise and under deliver. Many restrictive diets are unsustainable and mainly focused on weight, not health. Some are lacking essential nutrients and others are using pseudo-science to sell a concept: eat more protein and never feel hungry again etc. An imbalance in macronutrients can lead to health problems. For example, an excessive intake of protein can increase the risk of gout. Or a deficit of carbohydrate can lead to an insufficient intake of fibre for the gut bacteria and a compromised immune system.

Scientists have compared the major diets of the day: Low carb, low fat, low glycemic, Mediterranean, DASH diet, Paleolithic, vegan, and elements of other diets. There have been no rigorous, long-term studies comparing contenders for best diet laurels using a methodology that precludes bias and confounding. For many reasons, such studies are unlikely. They conclude that no diet is clearly best, but there are common elements across eating patterns that are proven to be beneficial to health.

Improvements in a diet are clearly associated with significant lengthening of lifespan and dramatic decreases in risk of most chronic diseases. A diet of minimally processed foods, mainly plant food, is best: not just fruits and vegetables, but whole grains, nuts, and seeds. The Mediterranean includes fats but the ratio of certain fats is important. A lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is key. The Mediterranean diet, which is additionally a high fibre diet, includes moderate alcohol and meat intake, antioxidants, and polyphenols. It has protective effects and helps lower heart disease, cancer risk, obesity, metabolic syndrome, dementia, and inflammation. If you focus on real food, nutrients tend to take care of themselves.

Hear Paula and fellow panelists, Endocrinologist Dr. Mary Ryan and Holistic Practitioner & Director of Zestivo  Elizabeth Whelan talk about how to be your happiest, whilst also your most productive and professionally successful yet, at our Peak Performance (Whilst Avoiding Burnout) Event on Thursday, February 15th.

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