nutrition 101

So Nutrition 101? I thought I’d get an ex-PT & nutrition guru to give you the 411 on nutrition because I think the more we know and understand about nutrition and what food does to our body, the better choices we can make. I know so many people who say they eat “really well” all the time and can’t lose weight, feel bloated blah blah blah. Guess what, they generally do NOT eat really well at all when you actually find out what they eat. Hot tip people…. Fat free generally means 100% sugar, you’re better off having the fat. So anyway, my rant is over for now but here’s Trav’s nutrition lesson….. I will start by outlining the basics and then build on that. I will try to use simple terms and some of this you may already know; however, keep reading as my ‘Golden Rules’ may be of interest to you. Holistically, you should each be eating for ultimate health and nothing else. Weight loss and becoming a picture of ‘twisted steel and sex appeal’ should be seen as an incidental benefit.


The information I am about to impart is generalist in nature and not directed at the seasoned athlete (although the basic fundamentals may yield some positive results in performance and body composition). This info’ is directed at those who have little training and nutrition knowledge/experience and want the need to get the fundamentals sorted before tweaking their own nutrition to suit their needs, lifestyle and training/sporting goals. For the athletes, there are specifics that need to be applied based on the energy system requirements of your chosen sports and so it is very individual with many contributing factors influencing what macronutrients you consume, in what combination, timings and quantities…

Hopefully I can arm you with some great knowledge and prompt you to be more conscientious about your food choices… Follow this blog and you are half way there! Keep in mind that training is only 25% of the battle, the other 75% is what you stick in your ‘pie hole’… Basic Macro-Nutrients/Substrates and their connection with one another through Insulin…


Insulin is a hormone that is secreted by the Pancreas and is responsible for storing everything we consume in it’s respective place (unfortunately, this little hormone loves to take fat to your hips, bum, belly and thighs most of all). Insulin is only present in large quantities when we consume sugar (carbohydrates), yet this is dependant on the type of carbohydrate, it’s glycemic index and load. When carbohydrates (explained later) are consumed and broken down into sugar, Insulin is sent from it’s ‘Taxi Rank’ at the Pancreas, picks up all the Macro’s (Protein, Fat and Sugars), takes Protein to the muscles for repair and growth, takes Fats to the fat cells to make us a little tubbier, and takes Sugar to the muscles and liver to be stored as energy. Sugar (carbohydrate) will trigger an insulin release. If no sugar (carbohydrate) is consumed, Insulin response will be more limited and therefore fat storage is reduced… Your goal is to drastically reduce and stabilise Insulin release as it also causes the Liver to produce Triglycerides! Read more about breaking the sugar addiction here –


1gm = 4cals Protein is broken down into Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) when digested – These are then used to repair muscle tissue, reinforce the integrity of cell walls, hair and nail growth, etc. The important thing to remember about protein is that you need at least 1gm per kilogram of bodyweight per day as a minimum and your protein choices must be from the following (good quality lean sources or any cuts from organic pastured animals in a quantity no larger than your closed fist or approx 150-200gms per serve): *Fish; *Pastured meat (Beef, Venison, Pork or Lamb); *Chicken or Turkey (not deli meat); *Legumes in limited amounts if prepared correctly to limit anti-nutrients (Lentils, Peas, Beans); *Dairy from pasture raised animals (Eggs , Milk – Dairy (raw if you can find it), Almond or Oat/Rice replacements, Cream – Whole, and Yoghurt – Natural only); and *Plant, Nut and Seed derived sources such as Avocado, Nuts (raw or dry roated, Macadamia are best), Seeds (same as nuts, Quinoa is also a Seed and great source of protein among other things when prepared correctly), and NO Soy (There are many opinions on this one click here to read more) Protein on it’s own, doesn’t cause an insulin response as it isn’t broken down into sugars (There is an exception to this statement… If you are following a keto type diet and only taking in trace carbohydrate, your body will use a metabolic pathway called gluconeogenesis to break non-carb macros’ down into sugar for energy production). Happy to speak with anyone out there on this topic…


1gm = 4cals Carbs are anything that is primarily made up of, or broken down into sugars. I could write a novel about the different types of ‘Saccharides’, how they are broken down and what effect each has on insulin, but there are only a couple of things I want you to take on board and live by with Carbs… The following are your main Carb sources that you would typically consume and are ‘safe’ when eaten on their own and or with other substrates (in the right quantities – no more than 1 cup, cooked, per serve in most cases): *Grains (Oats, Rice [long grain white, brown or wild], yet hold back on wheat based grains [our digestive systems haven’t progressed enough to process these properly); read more about this here: *Vegetables (Sweet Potato – Red or Orange Skin, Pumpkin, and Carrot/Parsnip). Greens and other more fibrous veges can be eaten by the truck load!; *Fruit (limit your fruit to only 1 serve per day. Any more than approximately 50gms of Fructose consumed in a sitting will trigger a decent insulin response which in turn causes a triglyceride response from the liver and can raise cholesterol like most refined sugars will). What you should steer clear of: Processed, refined sugary sweets such as cakes, lollies, muffins, biscuits… REFINED SUGAR! There is no exception to this rule… If you want sweet, go to… You need to read labels and make sure that NONE of the ingredients in whatever you are buying contains sugar (or any other sugar derivative such as dextrose, sucrose, maltodextrin, artificial sweeteners, basically anything that ends in ‘ose’). Because I am a nice guy, I will allow you to use the following as a ‘safe’ replacement (in absolute moderation), while cooking or to sweeten things such as a hot drink: * Pure Maple Syrup, green leaf Stevia; or * Raw Honey. At the end of the day – STAY AWAY FROM SUGAR!


1gm = 9cals Fats – Here is the low down on fats… A fat is not a fat. Hydrogenated products & polyunsaturated fats (ie vegetable oils & Margarine and from animal sources should be avoided. Animal derived saturated fats can be a great source of fat dependent on the animal, how it is fed and its’ lifestyle and health, will determine if you should be trimming the fat, or eating it. Lard, Butter, Tallow & Ghee are all excellent fats for cooking, are very heat stable & have some great nutrients to offer as well. Mono Unsaturated (nuts, seed etc) are a good source of fat (within reason), and when choosing oils from this category, look for olive, macadamia & flax… Unrefined, cold pressed and virgin are best. Macadamia Oil is a great choice for cooking as it has a high smoke point and won’t convert to a Trans Fat… That sh!t will kill you! The ‘low down’ on Coconut Oil (since there is quite a bit of hype around this at present and you will see this pop up in Shan’s recipes among other ‘food religions’ such as Paleo derivatives): more on Paleo here: Coconut Oil is a saturated fat (100%); yet is processed differently given its high Lauric and Stearic Acid content, and subsequent health benefits. It lowers cholesterol, is metabolised by the Liver and used for energy, and is a natural antiviral and antibacterial!


1gm = 7cals Alcohol – You should avoid eating ‘after’ consuming alcohol (after all, eating is cheating, right?!?!)… This is the reason for a lot of our weight gain. The reason is this: Alcohol is a poison/toxin and the body will work to excrete it before metabolising the other substrates. It will STORE all substrates while it is working on excreting the ‘poison’! That also means that your sugary mixed drinks are going to cause your body to store all the added sugar too. So, if drinking, try drinking only the following, stay on the one type of drink, drink the equivalent amount of water and don’t eat with it. *White Spirits (without added sugar); and *Wine or Champagne.

Righto, now you know a little about the Macro’s/Substrates, here are my ‘Golden Rules’: My Ten Commandments of Nutrition… 1. You can eat Carbs and Proteins together with little or no Fats only. This is because Carbs cause an insulin response and if you are consuming Fats while eating Carbs, you will store those Fats (As you become more tuned in with your nutrition and fat intake, this can be relaxed a little, as the adipose tissue or fat cells will become more insulin sensitive and release fat more readily… However, for the time being, stick to the rule of no fat with carbs!); 2. You can eat Protein and Fats together, without Carbs (for the reason mentioned above); 3. TRY NOT TO EAT REFINED CARBS WITH FATS. If you have consumed Carbs, try not eat Fats for at least 3hrs after. This is because your insulin levels are still raised for up to approximately 3hrs after consuming Carbs (in most cases). 4. Don’t eat anything with refined Sugar (or any of those ‘oses’) in it’s ingredients… That means NO LOLLIES! There are healthy alternatives such as fresh Berries; 5. DO NOT ADD TABLE SALT. Table Salt causes water retention due to balance of electrolytes and Osmosis. If you consume a lot of crappy table Salt/Sodium, your body will shunt it to the skin though Osmosis and that is what causes ‘puffiness’ and temporary weight gain. In saying that, moderate amounts of unrefined rock salt is a great source of trace minerals & provides many benefits. ; 6. Perform Metabolic Training in a fasted state (on an empty stomach), preferably before breakfast after sleeping. This is because your stored sugar levels (Glycogen) in the muscles and liver are lower and so your body will use a higher percentage of fat to compensate and provide more energy; 7. Drink a litre of water upon waking and before consuming anything else. This acts as a flush and wakes up your digestive tract. It will also stimulate your metabolism; 8. DO NOT EAT ANYTHING THAT CONTAINS ADDITIVES OR PRESERVATIVES OR IS OUT OF A PACKET; 9. Think like a ‘cave man/woman’. If it has gone through 2 or more processes before hitting the shelf, it is not worth eating, go for foods that are PICKED from a tree/bush, PLUCKED from the ground, or CUT from an animal in its natural environment; and 10. Fast for at least 2hrs before bed. In closing… Don’t submit to pressure. Don’t feel embarrassed to ask for an alternate option or for a chef to change a dish so that it doesn’t contain certain things. Remember there is a healthy ‘whole food’ alternative for every dessert or processed food. Start cooking… We can all make the most amazing dishes using ‘whole food’ ingredients within the guidelines of what I have written – our predecessors have done it before us, why can’t we?!

42 thoughts on “nutrition 101

  1. Gemma says:

    Fantastic tips!! This article has cleared up a lot of confusion, I will definitely put them into action ASAP. Thanks πŸ™‚

  2. Thanks Gemma and thanks for stopping by the blog πŸ™‚

  3. franziska says:

    I really love this article, thank you! I’ve been interested in nutrition for quite some time though, I follow mostly a Paleo diet, eat as clean and fresh and simple as possible. What did Trav study? I would be really interested to study a nutrition course..! Thanks again. Hugs, Franziska

  4. Oh thank you for stopping by the blog! Trav has studied many many things but his nutrition background comes from when he used to lecture on nutrition at a few PT training organizations in Brisbane.

  5. Lisa says:

    Amen – Clear, concise and to the point. Love it and believe it and I also try to live it….some days far better then others. Thanks

  6. Good on you Lisa, think we all fall off the wagon occasionally but I think having the knowledge of what different things do to your body is a pretty good way to keep on the straight and narrow most of the time πŸ˜‰

  7. Angie Radford says:

    Hi, these tips are great!
    I just have one question though, as in sugars it was mentioned that argyle, honey and maple are acceptable – Is stevia ok? I have heard it is processed differently in the body and has an extremely low caloric content- is this true??

  8. Hey Angie, stevia is derived from a plant leaf. Stevia leaves contain stevioside (which is 300 times sweeter than sugar) and rebaudioside (450 times sweeter than sugar) so it is technically not a ‘fake’ sugar created in a lab like sorbitol or aspartame, it is a naturally occurring sugar like pure maple syrup, agave or honey. It is very low calorie and is so much sweeter than processed sugar, you only need tiny amounts. Hope that helps?

  9. Angie Radford says:

    Yes it does thanks so much! πŸ™‚

  10. Kirsten says:

    Thank you for this information – it’s clear and very helpful. One question for you…
    I am doing a lot of research on the pre & post workout advice to take in simple sugars to ‘correct’ (prob very layman approach!) the insulin imbalance that occurs in heavy weight training. How does this fit in to the bigger picture of the insulin carrying sugars etc to the muscles? I realise that it’s done to give the muscles a re-feed but can’t quite work out why, where or how of it all. Can you help?
    Thank you, Kirsten.

  11. Hey Kirsten, thanks for reading the post! I am handballing this qtn to Trav to explain in more detail for you…
    – In answer to your question, I will try explain the hormonal responses the body has through training (and the effects that both anaerobic and aerobic training has on hormone secretion, suppression and sensitivity – all in simple terms)… When you train, you are putting your body under stress and that suppresses the secretion of insulin. Insulin is a storage hormone that is triggered by ingesting sugars (carbs) and proteins/fats (in trace amounts). If you we’re to do a strength session (anaerobic), your body uses predominantly ADP and Creatine Phosphate to fuel your workout, as well as stored sugars in the muscle (glycogen)… During both anaerobic and aerobic exercise, insulin allows glucose to be readily used by the body’s working tissues. The sensitivity of the muscle cells to insulin increases when exercise is stopped. Your body also secretes a few other hormones during exercise; being, cortisol (promotes and synthesizes glucose from fats and proteins), glucagon (promotes release of glycogen from the muscles and liver), epinephrine and norepinephrine (responsible for stimulating the breakdown of stored fat and glycogen for use as energy during exercise). With the onset of exercise, epinephrine and norepinephrine rapidly increase, as do cortisol and glucagon.

    With these raised hormones in the blood post exercise, it takes the body a little while to return to its normal state (usually around 30-45mins, otherwise known as the window of opportunity)… During this window, the cells are extremely receptive to insulin and uptake of glucose, amino acids (and fats).

    The theory is that you should consume high glycemic load carbs (simple sugars) to initiate insulin and replenish spent glycogen, sparing protein for muscle repair. The trick is to build your nutrition around your training… You should keep your carbohydrate consumption to a level that provides you sufficient fuel (glycogen), so you can train intensely, and maintain strength and metabolic function. Post training is an optimal time to include carbohydrate (clean, whole food derived) and spike your insulin levels to shuttle protein and (good) fats to the cells also. However, there are opposing theories as to how much carbohydrate and the types you should use… It is dependent on what your training routine is like (are you training twice a day or once every 2 days… Is your training largely aerobic, or is it anaerobic… etc, etc).

    You can read more on this at:

    I hope I have answered your question?!?! Let me know if not, and I will have another crack or give you more dribble!!!

  12. Kirsten says:

    You’ve done a great job – thank you! I’m going to re-read it a few times and have a look at the links. I’m going to ‘get’ this eventually. Thank you so much for taking the time.
    I’m sure you know that the sugars commonly touted as ‘best’ pre/post are maltodextrin and dextrose however I am currently extremely reluctant to cram that shit into my body in food formfor obvious reasons. The alternative is a supp with these in it, including the Waxy Maize supp also rated by some.
    I’m training for a b/building comp and my primary focus this season is to preserve muscle hence the reason why I’m looking into this. I eat really plain, really clean food and need to know why I should suddenly stick these sugars in.
    Really, really helpful. Much appreciated. Thank you.

  13. Erin Patricia says:

    awesome blog! I’ve become a follower πŸ™‚ Thanks for putting this into words we all can understand, sometimes I feel like people talk way to over my head! Very helpful! πŸ™‚

  14. Thank so much for stopping by the blog Erin! Glad that was easy to wrap your head around! Nutrition can be so difficult to understand sometimes!

  15. Ashlee says:

    Hey I loving reading this blog!

  16. Ashlee says:

    Hey hey just a quick question do you know anything about the Acia berry and it’s health
    Benefits ?? πŸ™‚

  17. Hey Ashlee, I have used Acai berry powder a few times. Very high in antioxidants. You can add the powder to natural yoghurt or to flavor cakes etc.

  18. Ashlee says:

    Hey hey just a quick question do you know anything about the Acai berry and it’s health
    Benefits ?? πŸ™‚

  19. Peggy says:

    Thank you very much for this information and all your fantastic recipes. Just a question, when talking about fats and carbs not being dated together can you give examples of what you would call fats? Such as if you we’re having avocado on whole meal bread?

  20. Hi Peggy, yep fats would include avocado, nuts, almond butter, peanut butter, oils etc. Anything that has a high fat content, even the good fats πŸ™‚ In regards to the avo on toast, I’d be ditching the toast before the avocado. Thank you for stopping by the blog! I hope that helps?

  21. nurulthecook says:

    Very, very informative. Thanks! πŸ™‚

  22. Thanks for stopping by the blog

  23. Megan Gardner says:

    Very informative and to the point! Well done on educating people on how food should be. Just a quick question… When I eat a piece of fruit say an apple my insulin rises (spikes), if I were to eat that same apple with a small handful of seeds/nuts would my insulin rise to the same point? I have heard that consuming fruits and fats together lowers the insulin spike, is this correct?

  24. Thanks Megan, how we each respond to an insulin spike will depend on how insulin sensitive/resistant we are. If you consume fruit & nuts/fats together your body is more likely to store that fat as fat rather than use it for energy because the fructose in the fruit is a more easily accessible source of energy. I try & eat fruit on its own. Here’s an interesting blog post

  25. Kate says:

    Thankyou! This article is very helpful and was very easy to read. It provided just the right sort of direction to help me with losing the last one or two kilos. I am an evening exerciser but I can see than a few morning bouts might be what it takes to get leaner – that and the fact that I am a wheat lover and doubt I’ll be able to give it up! Thanks again for the accessible, prescriptive advice.

  26. Hi!

    Ok so you’ve probably had this question before, but I was wondering what brands you use for protein powder.Β 

    I just read a pretty scary report on some nasty findings in some popular brands – including the Designer Whey brand that I use:

    I’m looking for 2 powders, one flavorless and one vanilla flavor – that both taste good and work well in baking Β and smoothies. I’m from NZ but am US based and find the food quality here is always compromised.Β 

    I use your recipes often and am always stoked on the results – I follow a no / low sugar diet which probs aligns with paleo if you had to categorize it. Not vego so Whey powders are all good, but I’m also all for using plant based powder where I can.

    Any advice on what you think the best powders are (that will be avail over here) would be awesome.Β 

    Thank you so much!

  27. Also, I find pea protein works better in baking & whey is better in uncooked stuff πŸ™‚

  28. Amy says:

    Thank you! I may have just got the tail end of your message though where you mention pea is better for baking? Was there one prior where you mention particular brands?

    Thanks again πŸ™‚

  29. Hi Amy, I have used the Vital brand of pea protein which I find good for baking. The grassfed whey from professional whey is a great whey brand too

  30. Jessica says:

    I wish I could make it this Saturday to hear you, Trav and Lily talk nutrition but I am on night shift! I have a million questions that I want to pick your brains on πŸ™‚ I absolutely love your articles!!
    I was also wondering what your thoughts are on the sunrice 90 second brown rice and quinoa packs as that is what I am using to have with tuna and spinach when I am feeling low in energy and have no time to prep.
    Do you have any tips for night shift eating?
    Thanks! Jess

  31. Hey Jess! What other ingredients are in the rice/quinoa packs would be my first question? I would lean more towards a protein source (tinned wild caught salmon maybe) & some good healthy fats (good glug of olive oil or an avocado) to keep you fuller for longer than grains but totally up to what makes you feel good. For Trav for his weekday lunches I grab the slow cooker on a weekend, fill it with chicken thighs, big bag of frozen veggies, a chopped sweet potato, tin of tomatoes, 500ml coconut cream & top the rest with chicken stock & let it go for the day. Once it’s cool, I put it into containers & freeze it for his lunch every day. You could always try & make extra when you are making lunch so you have leftovers & boiled eggs are a great ‘anytime’ snack as well a a big Fritatta might be good too. Hope that helps!

  32. Oh & feel free to email me if you do want to ask more questions πŸ˜‰

  33. Paula says:

    Hi Shan,
    Thank you for this. It’s incredibly helpful!
    One question. I am 2 months pregnant and i was wondering if you are following the same guidelines above while pregnant. You look incredible so i am guessing you did, but how did you learn to listen to your head rather than your new influx of hormones telling you what to eat??

    Thanks so much!

  34. myfoodreligion says:

    Hey Paula,

    I sure did but I guess I am that used to eating this way that it didn’t occur to me to eat any other way. Throughout my pregnancy I have followed a pretty high fat, moderate carb, moderate protein approach and tried to just give my body the most nutritious food I could. I didn’t have any cravings so I guess I was lucky in that respect. I did go through a stage where I felt like eating a lot more fruit than I usually do so I just went with that when I felt like it. For me I just wanted to grow the healthiest little human I possibly could and I know that’s not going to happen with crappy food so that made it much easier to choose the best options possible. I have loved being pregnant, maintained my exercise, have not put on an enormous amount of excess weight and am hoping that my labour will be great too and I think it really is a reflection of my nutrition throughout this journey. I am hoping Pebbles is going to be a super healthy & resilient baby too because of it. Good luck with your pregnancy, do what feels right for you and just enjoy it. It really is such an amazing experience.

  35. Paula says:

    This is great! Thanks so much. Pebbles is probably in there grinning from ear to ear thanks so how good she feels. This is all really good advice and at the end of the day because we wants whats best for our kids, the only way is to nourish ourselves the best possible way right now. This will be my mantra and i think it will be all i need to kick the cravings i have been getting to the curb πŸ™‚
    Sending you much love in these last couple of weeks! Wish you and Pebbles an easy delivery! πŸ˜€

  36. myfoodreligion says:

    Thank you Paula! I am sure you are going to grow an amazing little human.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *