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Paper to Podium is our new podcast series to share with you how to fuel, train and get results the way your favourite sportspeople do. Co-hosts Charlie Webster and Professor James Morton talk about sports science and nutrition with different guests every episode, from world-class athletes to world-renowned experts.

Our first bumper episode is about managing weight and managing mindset. Tune in here. This blog post brings you the key takeaways that you can implement to achieve your goals.

Our first guest is Professor Steve Peters, a consultant psychiatrist specialising in how the human mind works. Have ever heard of the ‘Chimp Paradox’ or ‘your inner chimp’? Steve coined these terms.

Geraint Thomas joined as our next guest. Geraint is a Tour de France winner and double Olympic champion and worked closely with James on his nutrition and performance from 2015-2019.

Our final guest this week is Dr Trent Stellingwerff, a well-respected expert in the field of sports science.

If you want to manage your weight, the first step is managing your mind.

Focus on your mindset first and foremost. Steve suggests the mind is made up of three parts: the human, the chimp and the computer. The human part is conscious, the chimp is the unconscious part of your mind that wants to protect you, and the computer advises both of these systems. If you feel something like anxiety, ask yourself: do I want to feel this emotion? If the rational answer is no, I don’t want to be feeling this, your inner chimp is causing you to feel this way.

Manage your inner chimp. If an emotion doesn’t serve you, discard it. If it does, use it to your advantage.

Dreaming is a form of planning. What do you want to achieve? Dream about it, then plan how to achieve it.

Plan ahead. This includes mapping out hurdles, barriers and pitfalls — be aware of these and manage the chimp. The relationship we have with our mind and our inner chimp impact the relationship we have with food, eating and our bodies. Having control of your mind allows you to be in control of your actions.

Join forces. Team up with someone, encourage and support each other. Commit to your training with another person and keep each other inspired and accountable. You are more likely to succeed with support.

Remind yourself of what grounds you. Start with the big picture — will what happens today matter a year from now?

Get to know your body and learn your limits. Pay attention to the way carbs, protein and salt affect you. Does your body thank you for eating regularly? Does it respond well to intermittent fasting? Are you aware of how quickly your body burns carbohydrates for fuel? Does your performance suffer when you’re especially lean? Geraint’s advice is to work this out for yourself. Make mistakes and learn from them. The best way to learn how to fuel yourself properly is to understand how your body works.

Focus less on the final destination and take care of the details. Take care of yourself the entire journey. Instead of going to extremes when it comes to either your nutrition or your training, chip away at your goals consistently. Focus on small goals along the way! And don’t forget to plan for all legs of the journey. The first few hours after training are crucial for your performance the following day, so don’t forgot to plan for fuelling up at this time.

Train hard, eat well. Everyone responds differently to exercise and nutrition. Losing weight can be facilitative to performance, but extreme dietary practices like a consistently low calorie intake can have many negative effects. This is especially true when you are training regularly (5+ hours a week) and lead a busy lifestyle. Athletes don’t need to be at ‘fighting weight’ all year long — there is no need to be in peak condition at all times.

Maintain a healthy relationship with food. Managing your mindset around food is the best advice we can give you. Failing to do this and going to extremes affects your hormone levels and can impact sleep which often leads to irritability, fatigue and lack of wellbeing.

You will perform best with a coach. Having a coach that is with you every step of the way will maximise your performance.

Fuel for the work required. You don’t train the same every day, so why eat the same way every day? Eat based on what you will be doing in the next 2-3 days. Fuel up in the days leading up to difficult training sessions and reduce your food intake for easier days. This sets you up with the best chance of enjoying exercise and performing the best you can.

There is no need to reinvent the wheel to get the best out of your training, feel great and manage your weight and your mindset. Get to know your body, don’t go to extremes in training or diet, and think twice about what the little voice in your head is telling you — is it your inner chimp?

Written By

Julia Deufel - content writer and consultant

Julia runs her own marketing consultancy, working with businesses and non-profits in education, nutrition, fitness and the arts. She also teaches a blend of HIIT and Pilates she developed and is an avid indoor cyclist. Julia is an advocate of effective altruism and believes in the power of sport to change lives.