Yep, we're going there.
It's wild that we don't talk about nutrition as actors. Outside of the extreme tales of bulking or weight loss, it's kinda a no-go-zone, 'innit?
Yet, this silence is nonsensical and self-defeating. If we're truly here to maximise our fullest potential, we'd be bananas (pun intended) not to leverage the tremendously powerful tool that is our diet (diet meaning a long-term approach to nutrition, not counting calories or swinging from fad to fad).
We want to talk about this because it's important. It's important to us just as humans, and of further importance to us as peak performance professionals. Think of it like this: both regular cars and F1 racing cars require the appropriate fuel. However, regular cars only require a fuel that supports function, F1 racing cars require a fuel that guarantees performance in the top 1%. In this analogy, we Dojo actors are F1 racing cars.
Obvious disclaimer: we aren't medical professionals and don't pretend to play them on the internet (though we may on stage or screen). The following is the result of over 10 years of research and personal experimentation, but every body (in the actual sense) has unique needs and preferences. Use the following as inspiration, not a prescription.
As mentioned above, we aren't interested in touting the latest celebrity craze. Instead, we focus on longevity and sustainable peak performance. Any gain yo-yo-ing may offer in the short term will be quickly offset by the havoc it wrecks on our metabolism.
The foundation stones:
- Nourish. In the 5th century BC, Hippocrates said, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food". In the 21st century, we can roughly translate this to, "Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants" (shout out to Michael Pollan and Ben Bergeron for bringing us this badass manifesto).
- Prep. Meal prep can take many shapes and forms. We've personally played with everything from day-to-day prep to weekly prep and every cadence in between. We now meal prep twice a week and that seems to be our sweet spot — each session covering all meals and snacks for the next three days. Yes, it's an investment of time, but it's one of the wisest we make.
- Pack. Whether we're heading out to our Muggle job, rehearsals, or a day off exploring the world, pack healthy snacks. Raw nuts and seeds are the best choices (especially walnuts, almonds, and pumpkin seeds), but a fave piece of fruit also works well. Ensure that our trusty (reusable) water bottle is thrown in there too.
Colouring it in
With the foundation stones in place, we can now turn our focus to the specifics. Self-experimentation is strongly encouraged here. Remember, every body has unique needs and preferences.
- Fluids. Given ~ 60% of our body is water, it makes sense to start here. Clean drinking water should be our first choice — though tea and coffee can be healthy alternatives — with an aim for six to eight glasses every day. We should keep our alcohol consumption moderate (up to one drink daily for women, up to two daily for men).
- Fats. Fats have been made unnecessarily complicated. If we're adhering to the above and eating "real foods" (i.e. foods nature made, not a scientist), we won't need to stress — fats are an essential macronutrient. Embrace a serving of nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, or oily fish (e.g. salmon or mackerel) at every meal.
- Protein. The body's main building block is another vital macronutrient to include in every meal. Nuts, seeds, legumes, fish, meat, and meat alternatives all hit the spot, as can dairy and dairy alternatives. The less human interference our protein has had, the better.
- Carbohydrates: The final macronutrient. When it comes to starchy carbs (e.g. rice, bread, pasta etc.), we want to be choosing those with the highest fibre content (think brown rice, wholegrain bread, wholewheat pasta). Fruit and veg also count towards our carb total and, ideally, we want to be hitting at least five servings of these dudes per day.
- Vitamins & Minerals: Again, if we're following the Pollan/Bergeron manifesto, we'll be well on our way to hitting the recommended daily intake (RDI) of all vitamins and minerals. We aren't here for fads, but we personally enjoy a couple of cheeky hacks that help cover our bases. Our top three are:
1. A vitamin D supplement in winter/areas with little sun exposure.
2. A vitamin B12 supplement for those on plant-based diets (hi friends 👋🏼).
3. One to two Brazil nuts to max out the RDI of selenium.
If you're a Dojo regular, you would have heard the phrase "control the controllables" a gazzilionty-eleven times. As actors don't control much, it's all the more empowering to be on point with the ones we do.
When we eat well, we feel well. We summon more energy, possess greater confidence, and dodge illness and injury. Our memory strengthens, our skin clears, and our life extends.
Why the hell wouldn't we want to talk about this?
Thoughts / feedback / challenges? We'd genuinely love to hear.
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