Eating for an active life: Q&A with nutritionist Tamara Madden

Nutritionist, ultra-marathon runner and triathlete, Tamara Madden knows what it takes to fuel active bodies to keep them healthy and in peak-performance state.

Here, she chats to us about the balance between fitness and nutrition, and shares advice for fitness professionals looking to offer their clients something more.

What are the most important factors to consider when feeding an active body?

The first thing that you need to consider is the balance of macro nutrition that a person needs. I would tend to start with carbs, because when people are active they really need carbs to fuel their energy.

To examine how many carbs a person needs you need to look at how many hours a week they're training; the type of training they're doing; and whether they need to gain, lose or maintain their weight.

For example, an endurance athlete is going to need a lot more carbs than someone who is doing strength based training (they would need a higher ratio of protein and fat).

After I have examined the carb needs, I will move onto protein and fat requirements.

Eating healthy breakfast bowl. Yogurt, granola, seeds, fresh and dry fruits and honey in blue ceramic bowl in woman' s hands. Clean eating, dieting, detox, vegetarian food conceptWhat would you like more people to know about sports nutrition for athletes?

There's no one-size-fits-all diet for people. There are guidelines in place for athletes in terms of how many carbs, how much protein and how much fat they need. However, at the end of the day, the diet needs to be based around the individual.

You have to consider the athlete's body type, lifestyle, their stage of life, metabolism, how much training they're doing, and what their goals are.

You can't design a program and then implement it for everybody. Nutrition doesn't work that way.

If someone seriously wants to make a change for the better, as a healthcare professional you have to address the person sitting in front of you, rather than just implementing a template program.

What advice would you give to fitness professionals who are looking to expand into the nutrition realm?

Do it! Training is only part of the picture. Whether someone wants to become healthier, lose weight, become stronger, or improve their running time, without the nutrition to back up training they're only less than half way there.

Also, because your clients are going to get results faster, pairing fitness and nutrition can help you retain more clients.

If you can't take on the qualification and training that you need to be able to provide nutrition advice, you should consider partnering with a qualified nutritionist.

I partner with a lot of running coaches to provide nutritional guidance to support their businesses through nutrition.

What's the best way for a fitness professional to find a nutritionist to partner with?

Ask around. Word of mouth is the best recommendation. Also, I think it's good to have someone who understands the needs of your clients. For example, I work with a lot of running and triathlon coaches because I run and do triathlon. I understand the nutritional needs of athletes in those particular sports.

If you are a specialist in a particular area of fitness, find a nutritionist that understands that area as well. I stress this because there's general nutrition and then there's sport specific nutrition. There is a slight difference between the two.

What three pieces of advice would you give to people who want to live healthy lives?

Firstly, think about where your food has come from. Where was your food grown and processed? Consider the origin of your food because you want nutrient dense meals.

The chemicals and farming methods used in your food's creation, as well as how much it is processed before it hits your plate can have a huge impact on the levels of nutrients in your food.

Secondly, listen to what your body needs. How does the food make you feel after you eat it? Energised? Sluggish? Bloated? Full?

As I said earlier, there is no one-size fits all diet. Some people do better on plant-based diets, some better on paleo, while some thrive on the Mediterranean diet. The important thing is to listen to your own body rather than following a trend. Think about what works for you.

Lastly, consider how food fits into your lifestyle. Don't beat yourself up if you can't be perfect. Do as best as you can with the time allocation that you're prepared to give to your diet.

We all have the same amount of time in a day and some people prioritise other things. It's one part of your life. If you're not perfect do the best you can.

There does not need to be stress created around your diet. If you're becoming obsessed with what you're putting in your body, then it's counterproductive.