Contender for the smileiest OCR personality in town, Lee Jackson talks about how he turned his life around through changing his diet. Whilst he’s not a nutritionist (and we’d recommend consulting one if you need to overhaul your diet), he has changed his habits for the better simply through experimenting with what worked for him. So, if you want to know what keeps this machine moving, read on!

Diets: 5-a-day, Paleo, Dukan, Atkins, Dash, vegan, aaargh! Where do you start with trying to eat healthily? Everyone has different ideas depending on their goals. I haven't got any qualifications in nutrition and still don't know everything about how foods are processed in the body but after years of experimenting with my nutrition I know exactly what my body needs and when it needs it. Here's a bit about how I found this out, hopefully it might help others to find their nutritional needs.

Like the average lad in his twenties I didn't eat healthily; too many pasties, steak bakes, sausage rolls, cakes, chocolate, takeaways, you name it. A good 50% of my food intake was rubbish really. Having youth on my side, a physical job and a quick metabolism I could get away with this, until I hit 30. Then I noticed things started changing, I was getting a little bit of a belly and lacked energy. I had to do something about it, and that's when I found OCR.

With thoughts of changing my lifestyle on my mind, a friend suggested our football team went on a team-bonding weekend to Total Warrior – giving me a perfect opportunity to give it my all and see what happens. So 6 weeks before, I decided to cut out everything rubbish - beers, takeaways, chocolate, crisps, the lot. Not knowing what would be the best foods to eat and what effect they would have, I went for what I call the bodybuilders diet: chicken, vegetables and sweet potato for lunch and dinner, with an orange and a banana and a bowl of cereal for breakfast. It was boring, but at least it wasn't junk food.

Breakfast of literal champions

As far as dinners went, I was not, and am still not overly strict. I look for balance, but variation, so things like salmon, rice, vegetables and beans, tuna and vegetable bake, veggie curry, or trusty jacket potatoes with cheese and beans. I have spaghetti Bolognese, omelettes with chips and beans, sausage mash and veg, chicken, potatoes and vegetables or a chicken stir fry.

After 4 weeks alongside training, my body shape started to change. I trimmed down nicely but my energy levels hadn't improved. Still, Total Warrior went really well, and had me hooked on OCR and eating healthily.

Realistically, I couldn't sustain eating like an athlete all the time (I'm no Mo Farah and I definitely don't run like him) and life became boring and sad. I also introduced 2 cheat days where I would be a bit more relaxed. Otherwise, I continued with my ‘boring’ diet for lunch, altering the dinners but having to have a coffee an hour after lunchtime to get me through the afternoon lull.

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‘Right’, I thought to myself, ‘Let's change this food up and sort this afternoon lull out.’ Over the next couple of years, I tweaked small things about my daytime eating, giving each version 4-6 months for me to settle into.

I kept track of how each version of my diet made me feel. My second try looked like this:

  • 6:00 porridge
  • 10:00 banana and mixed nuts
  • 13:00 tuna and potato salad
  • 6:00 cherry tomatoes

I concluded that I was losing too much weight. I was still not getting over the afternoon dip and feeling hungry before dinner.

The answer? I moved nuts to the afternoon to see if that changed my energy level. I also added a more substantial 10am snack.

Exclusive photograph of Lee's nuts
  • 6:00 porridge
  • 10:00 mackerel in a bread wrap with olives
  • 13:00 tuna and potato salad
  • 16:00 mixed nuts, cherry tomatoes

Nope, still hungry by 9pm, still sleepy in the afternoon, but the mixed nuts did fill me up until dinner.

Was the answer to swap the salad for something else?

  • 6:00 porridge
  • 10:00 mackerel in a wrap with olives
  • 13:00 2x tuna sandwiches in brown bread
  • 16:00 mixed nuts and cherry tomatoes

The sandwiches had it! The afternoon low had gone. BUT, I was still hungry by 9 and I was feeling quite bloated, probably due to too much bread.

Next, I swapped porridge for something else and reduced the bread intake.

  • 6:00 Weetabix and muesli
  • 10:00 tuna sandwich and a banana
  • 13:00 a can of mackerel, a pot of cottage cheese and a bowl of mixed fruit
  • 16:00 mixed nuts and cherry tomatoes.
Food prep is his middle name

Finally, I have cracked it; this has basically been my diet for a year now. I've managed to have energy all day long, build muscle and feel full up.

My thoughts behind this final diet were that the Weetabix are great source of energy and fibre, whilst muesli gives a little sugar boost through raisins and slow release energy with the oats. Tuna is a great source of protein to help repair muscles after morning training, and the bread gives me a valuable carbohydrate sources to get through the morning. I understand that potassium and magnesium are beneficial to training bodies, and I get that through bananas. Mackerel is a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids; since I've cut down majorly on the fatty foods I eat, I need these beneficial fats from somewhere! The mixed nuts are fatty foods too, but also give me vital energy to get me through the last couple of hours of the day and fill me up until dinner. Cottage cheese is a great source of protein for muscle building and a fruit bowl sorts me out with a wide range of vitamins.

This daily diet is not easy as there's a lot of prep involved. I have to be disciplined to get this done amidst having a training plan, being self-employed, having a little baby and trying to have a social life. It’s hard but so worth it. To me, balanced and beneficial nutrition gives me that extra 10% that allows me to perform at a higher level than I would normally be at, and every little thing helps when competing.

As everyone likes different foods, the point I am making is not ‘eat what I eat,’ it’s to write down the foods you like, and put them roughly into food groups noting their nutritional benefits to you. Think about their energy content, and split them up evenly throughout the day according to when you think your body will need it, tweak it until everything feels good for you. No one plan will suit everybody, and there’s no point taking on a meal plan with foods you don’t like.

Just remember to give each plan a good trial period as there are so many other factors that can effect your weight and energy levels, like sleep, what you drink, how hard you've trained and how busy your day at work has been. And remember to enjoy it - food is AMAZING!

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