Best known as a Michelin-starred chef, it’ll surprise many people to know that Gordon Ramsay’s also a pretty hardcore athlete having done 15 marathons, three ultramarathons, four half Ironmans and the world’s toughest Ironman in Hawaii.
He hasn’t always been this fit though. In his new book, he highlights how chefs (including himself at one point) eat the best food and the worst in equal measure with the stresses of the job and 16-hour shifts taking their toll on their lifestyles and waistlines. When working in the restaurant at Royal Hospital Road, he recounts never leaving the kitchen and snacking on all the wrong things. It was starting to affect his health and so he began to force himself to go for runs by scheduling them as non-negotiables in his diary. Exercise has now become a permanent fixture in his life and, equipped with the nutritional knowledge he’s acquired over the years, he uses his food to fuel his fitness goals.
A strong believer that healthy food doesn’t have to compromise on taste and flavour, his new book looks to share the key lessons he’s learned over the years and to provide an action plan for a trio of different health objectives.
Who’s it for?
Those who train for endurance sports will find the recipes for before and after a race in the Fit section particularly helpful. If you’re looking to expand your healthy cooking portfolio generally though or for creative ways to up your 5-a-day, it’ll serve as a useful addition to your collection too.
What are its core principles?
Ramsay's key point is that what you eat needs to be modified to best suit your specific objective. With this in mind, the recipes are broken down into three sections - Healthy, Lean and Fit to differentiate between maintenance, weight loss and fuel for endurance activities (more on than below).
The recipes in each section have been analysed by a nutritionist and are designed to leave you full and full of energy too. He encourages eating as varied a diet as possible in order to best meet your body’s demands and trying to keep intake of saturated fat, sugar and salt down. Although he acknowledges that there have been studies questioning whether saturated fat (found in animal products like lard, butter and cheese) is actually as bad for us as we believe, the government guidelines haven’t changed in light of this and so his recipes are in keeping with the current recommendations (under 20g for women and 30g for men). However, he does include coconut oil in some of the recipes due to its content of plant-based fats that can aid weight loss by reducing appetite and boosting metabolism. He also highlights the importance of essential fats such as omega-3s for the benefit of the heart and brain. Some ‘free sugars’ such as honey, maple syrup and agave syrup are used too, but in small quantities and combined with complex carbs and sometimes protein to slow down their effect.
Carbs-wise, complex ones are given the the thumbs up as they’re slow releasing and keep you fuller for longer (ideal for the Fit section in particular where endurance sports and training are concerned). He doesn’t encourage an obsessive approach towards calorie counting , but believes that keeping a tally of them is useful for weight loss, when it comes to checking that the amount of energy you consume is less than the amount used.
What are the recipes like?
The expectation for a book written by an award-winning chef is that the recipes will be delicious - and it doesn’t disappoint in this regard.
A mix and match approach is encouraged depending on who you’re cooking for, to avoid rigidity but to also provide a framework too.
Its 100 recipes are broken down into the following sections:
Healthy: These recipes have been created to maintain your weight, keep blood sugar stable and boost your nutrient content. Recipes are devised with no more than 5g of saturated fat, 15g of sugar and 1.5g of salt per serving and include an apple-pie-spiced porridge, tuna and avocado tartare and sea bass ceviche with tomato, lemon and chilli.
Lean: This is the section geared towards weight loss . Recipes are fewer in calories and are designed to be combined with raised activity levels. The aim here is that you aren’t consuming more food than you’re using so you don’t store it as fat. Recipes include a courgette omelette, brown sushi hand rolls, tamarind prawns and banana ‘ice cream.’
Fit: This part’s been written to provide information on the right balance of carbohydrates, fats and protein needed for training and endurance sessions that last at least an hour. Highlighting the role of carb-loading before a race and how to increase recovery through protein afterwards, recipes are designed to reduce the risk of fatigue, weakness and injury. Culinary inspiration includes a banana and date breakfast shake, Vietnamese crispy tofu wraps, southern Indian fish curry, Panzanella with poached chicken and Aztec hot chocolate.
The GTG verdict?
With an emphasis on what you can do in the kitchen to boost what you do in the gym, its recipes provide a colourful and creative reminder that food for fitness needn’t be boring. Servings range between 1 to 4, mains, snacks and side dishes are incorporated into each section and its mix and match approach provides a dose of flexibility. Offering some tasty food for thought when it comes to healthy eating generally and for endurance sports, its absence of rigid rules makes it more practical than prescriptive.