FitMag Interviews Alex Ferentinos - A Discussion On Nutrition


Today’s guest has a growing reputation as a leading authority on nutrition within the body composition and sporting fields. Alex Ferentinos is a very likeable guy, a knowledgeable guy and somebody who is able to educate a lot of people within just 140 characters! Thousands have benefitted from Alex’s teachings and today you will have the opportunity to do the same.

AF 1

Alex thank you for joining us! To start with can you give us some background information? 

I was a very hyperactive child, my parents, grandparents and godparents used to keep me entertained with afterschool activities from art, sculpture, martial arts, football, cricket, basketball, hockey, swimming, music amongst other things, so I've always tried to stay well rounded and I've always been athletic. I was quite the swimmer as a kid, I used to compete in the Essex league with my club on a Saturday and my Dad used to drive me to competitions all over the country most Sundays. I was then scouted for an excellent club at the same time I'd been accepted to a military school, where rugby and athletics were huge, though my swimming slipped as they would not let me train with the club I was scouted for before other pupils were awake. Never saw the problem with that myself but that's how life panned out. At school, in year nine, we started using the gym to make us stronger rugby players, I full stacked the leg extension and leg press straight away though my upper body strength was feeble, and my favourite lift was the squat, probably because swimming and sprinting plus genetics had given me strong legs! After school, I spent some time in Customs & Excise Law Enforcement, that was not for me and didn't make me happy at all, so I studied personal training and nutrition to do something I was strongly interested in. The knowledge acquired has been used on myself to get my own body to a good level of performance and I was internationally capped in rugby back in 2010. Now, after eight years of continual application, an ever present thirst for knowledge and the pursuit of continual self-development, we arrive at where I am today. I also started a degree in performance in 2011 to get into elite Strength & Conditioning long term and have received distinctions in all strength coaching assessments.

Fantastic, what a journey. What are the most common mistakes you see people make with their nutrition?

Government and medical advice is out of date and poor. Fad diets are everywhere. Crap food products alleging health benefits line supermarket shelves. Generic, but not optimal advice floats around. Whatever needs doing, the calories must be appropriate, then within that, they need to be from good quality foods providing plenty of micronutrients and substantial amounts of the macronutrients, our protein, carbs and fats. People slash calories when they want to get leaner, and pile them on when they want to gain size, but they may have not been in the right place to begin with. However, there is no one size fits all amount, so monitoring and adjusting is key. People also need to stop caring what everybody else thinks. My default answer to people who talked ill of my food was "This is the food I need to eat to improve my health, performance and physique, that is why the general public do not look and perform like athletes, please respect that this is what I choose to do, it's what makes me truly happy, I do not force it on others and it is not endangering my health. Thank you for your concern though." People should be able to appreciate that.

Indeed. What are your ‘’fundamental’’ nutritional beliefs?

My fundamental philosophies are to source better foods, fix gut health and function, then constructing the diet from foods the individual enjoys that will fit into their schedule. That's the key to long term health, satisfaction and adherence. There's little point getting calories on point if we don't address gut health, if the meals aren't a practical fit for somebody's life or unenjoyable. However, many are not prepared to prep food for the week ahead, if you want to get it done, this is a must, skipping breakfast, grabbing a sandwich from a coffee shop, nibbles at work and ready meal in the evening will never cut it. Regular, quality feeds are a must. Prep in advance makes them convenient and enjoyable. Sourcing better's the same amount of cooking and chewing but over time will benefit health and longevity, yes, it may cost more, but so do nice clothes, people don't like to look cheap. Championing local produce like quality butchers and fishmonger's shops and negotiating regular customer bulk discount can help.

What’s your key advice for those eating for optimal body recomposition whether that be mass or fat loss?

Whether eating for mass or fat loss, foods don't change. The healthiest and most beneficial foods are still the healthiest, most beneficial foods. The amounts and timing will change though. A lot of people look for "fat burning foods" - they don't exist. Training does that. Nutrition supports training, recovery and repair. For mass, often people say I eat a lot and I don't grow, you probe further and it's not enough. Other factors are sleep, stress reduction, recovery and having a sound program mastering exercise technique.

Which individuals are best to learn from on the topic of nutrition in your opinion?

For solid nutrition advice, I really look up to people like John Meadows, Phil Learney, Laurent Bannock, Dr. Craig Sale and Dr. Graeme Close. Scott Robinson is another one to watch out for, a genuinely nice guy with great knowledge and a good outlook. There are some with good knowledge and education that have poor interpersonal skills, which is a shame. I also have a very good lecturer named Jon Cree, he mostly looks at S&C, he trained some of the 2012 Olympians and has a great approach, solid knowledge and is always very helpful, this is inspiring, there's no point becoming a coach or a consultant if you're lacking social skills. It's about connecting, inspiring and driving people. That's the art of compassion.

Very well put. What are your views on supplementation?

Supplementation is not something we can generalise, much like foods, we take it supplement by supplement as we would look at things food by food. The International Society of Sports Nutrition is a good place to look into these. Incorporating beneficial supplements with proven efficacy is worthwhile, but buying every product in a company's line is not. Most need to fix their food, training, sleep, recovery, relaxation, stress levels and outlook on life before supplementation though there are a few like magnesium and vitamin D3 that are hard to get from food in high enough levels. Something a lot of people don't do is hydrate well. Drinking a litre per 20-30kg of bodyweight's a good rough guide.

Is supplementation useful for adding mass, burning fat and optimising health?

Supplementing for health, fat loss and muscle mass will be down to calories and macronutrient intake, again and mostly from the diet. However, for muscle mass, one might rely on more supplemental protein, carbs and fats as some reach a plateau in what they can physically eat, and then their muscle mass accrual also plateaus, but these extras would require digestive enzymes too to make sure they're utilised.

How significant is the hormonal impact of food?

Hormonal impact's very important, that's why hormonal drugs are so effective in body recomposition, not that I use/used them and not that I am advocating them here. As mentioned, training, sleep, relaxation, stress reduction and other factors are also important though, so it's about the whole approach. Clive Woodward who coached the 2003 England Rugby Squad to the World Cup victory famously said it was about improving 100 things by 1%, which is a great sentiment.

Is nutrient timing important for body recomposition?

Nutrient timing in terms of protein is important as the body doesn't store it so we need regular pulses. Carb timing can help prevent blood sugar crashes during performance, reload muscle glycogen affect nutrient partitioning and aid the uptake of supplements like creatine. Fats and fibre aren't ideal bracketing workouts as they slow digestion and nutrient uptake but at all other times are quite important for those reasons as well as fats helping line cells, produce hormones and utilise vitamins A, D, E & K whilst soluble and insolube fibre will in part help digestive health.

What if any points differentiate men and women’s dietary needs in relation to body recomposition?

Women carry less lean mass than men in general, unless they're chemically assisted, again, I'm not recommending that, just saying how it is...unfortunately many see that and think that's what happens as soon as a lady lifts! Again, foods won't differ much from men to women, but I may emphasise glutes and calves much much more for a woman and try to not develop the upper traps and forearms, unless they want that for a physique competition. Skinny may fit into small sized designer labels but athletic looks great naked. The individual's goals, body and activity would determine the amounts.

Thanks for talking to me today Adam. People can see what I do via I also tweet tips and helpfully provide Q&A via twitter and YouTube too I post articles on facebook:

Thank you Alex, it’s been a pleasure.

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