The exhilarating combination of physical activity, cold water and sea air makes for the ultimate appetite builder, as anyone who’s visited this stretch of coastline can confirm. But whether we’re catching waves, exploring the cliff path or doing yoga on the beach, what effect does getting active outdoors have on our eating habits – and how can we maximise that satisfied glow with what we eat? We asked three nutrition and exercise experts to wade in on this fascinating subject, sharing ten tips anyone can follow…
(TLDR: always put an egg – or tofu – on it)
“I’m always ravenous when I get out of the sea!” laughs Amelia Freer, one of the UK’s leading nutritional therapists and internationally best-selling author of four healthy eating cookbooks. “Working up an appetite by being active outdoors definitely feels like it makes good food taste even better.”
With our new Wavehunters partnership reinvigorating Watergate’s ‘ski resort on a beach’ experience and the relaunched Beach Hut's fresh take on the post-surf refuel, it feels like the right time to ponder the relationship between food, exercise and time out in the elements.
What makes the best pre-workout meal and why? Which foods should we be eating for sustained energy release in the sea? What does cold water do to our metabolisms? Can healthy food feel like a treat? And is it OK to indulge a bit on holiday?!
Ex-pro dancer Welly toured the world with stars including Snoop Dogg, Robbie Williams, Kylie and Chaka Khan, before becoming a YouTube Pilates phenomenon, nutritional therapist and wellbeing coach. Her Body Mind Soul Reset courses help women regain their physical and mental strength.
Meanwhile, just up the coast from us in St Agnes, clinical nutritional therapist and cold water swimming enthusiast, Grace, is an evangelical advocate for the healing power of food. Hot topics covered on her Apple top-ranking podcast STATE OF MIND include food waste, intuitive eating and the problem with plant milks.
Read on for Amelia, Grace and Welly’s top ten food and fitness tips for when you next find yourself in Watergate Bay – or just for everyday life beyond the beach…
“My go-to breakfast is always the same, whether I’m swimming or not: a protein-based savoury breakfast, AKA #eggsandveg. So, it would be: eggs, rocket, tomatoes, basil, bit of sauerkraut, drizzle the whole thing with olive oil, and add a piece of toast if you fancy. A protein breakfast will keep your blood sugar nice and steady, which is really important, especially if you’re going into cold water.” – Grace Kingswell
“My favourite breakfast is almost always savoury. I like to get a portion of protein, and at least 1-2 portions of vegetables at breakfast, to keep my blood sugars, energy and appetite stable throughout the day. My go-to combination tends to be a slice of toast with avocado, eggs, sauerkraut and tomatoes. The recipe is here.” – Amelia Freer
“If you have toast in the morning, try adding an egg and a little olive oil or some roasted veg. But breakfast can be anything. I’m African, so I grew up eating all sorts – from rice to sardines on toast – there were no rules!” – Isa Welly
“I think when you exercise, there’s a knock-on effect where you naturally tend to choose healthier foods, because you’re empowering yourself – looking after yourself. When you start working out and you start seeing the results and feeling better, you instinctively want to eat better.” – Isa Welly
“When I’m spending time outdoors, I want food that leaves me feeling energised, rather than heavy and fatigued. Watergate Bay and the active lifestyle it inspires lends itself to relaxed food with colourful produce and punchy flavours. And with the sea on the doorstep, I would naturally include nourishing seafood too.” – Amelia Freer
Watergate Bay and the active lifestyle it inspires lends itself to relaxed food with colourful produce and punchy flavours.
“Looking at the research, there are incredible benefits to be had from coldwater swimming with lowering inflammation. I’ve heard from clients who suffer from long-term inflammatory conditions that a ten-minute cold swim can be as beneficial as months on an anti-inflammatory diet. Sea swimming brings a huge rush of endorphins, and builds a feeling of connection to nature that works on the parasympathetic nervous system and the vagus nerve, which runs down the front of our bodies and is activated by cold water.” – Grace Kingswell
“If you’re surfing, the combination of cold water, intense physical activity and the adrenaline means you’ll need something filling, warm and nourishing as quickly as possible once dry. I’d suggest starting a refuel with plenty of water. It’s easy to get dehydrated when you’re swimming or surfing, often without realising. I’d then suggest a good balance between protein and carbohydrates, with a decent portion of vegetables. Something to fill you up, nourish your body, and minimise any sugar highs (which could lead to increased fatigue later on). From The Beach Hut menu, I’d probably opt for something like the roasted vegetables with green herb sauce (which has houmous for some plant-based protein), or the grilled fish of the day. Plus a warm cup of tea!” – Amelia Freer
“I have some clients who are vegan and look and feel super healthy, and I have other clients for whom it just doesn’t work. While I believe it’s crucial for the health of the planet and our own health to keep eating meat to a minimum and find the balance, your body will always have the last word. If your body doesn’t like it, your skin will fall apart, you’ll have no energy and you’ll get sick.” – Isa Welly
“I believe that there is no one right way for all, but rather that the key is to be informed about nutrition and to be conscious consumers. For example, if you’re eating meat or dairy, consider buying it from regenerative farms where soil is being restored through responsible grazing to support future arable crops, or avoiding air-freighted fruits and vegetables when seasonal produce is available.” – Amelia Freer
If you’re surfing, the combination of cold water, intense physical activity and the adrenaline means you’ll need something filling, warm and nourishing as quickly as possible once dry.
“For me personally, swimming in cold water causes a drop in my blood sugar (which I track using a continuous blood glucose monitor). And afterwards, I often feel like I need sugar and something carby. So, I might come home and scramble some eggs and have some tea and toast with jam afterwards. Or, if I’m with friends and someone has cake then I definitely feel like I deserve a slice after a cold swim!” – Grace Kingswell
“I don’t believe in the concept of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ food. I also don’t have a specific post-workout meal. The world is changing and we are rightfully rebelling against the idea of dieting – and I think that’s great, because it’s a negative concept that’s caused so much angst. I hate the idea that women feel like they need to work out for three hours a day to be able to have a burger. I’m very much: ‘If you really want a burger, get a burger!’ But it’s all about listening to your body, and trying not to overdo it!” – Isa Welly
“I don’t really believe in an all-or-nothing approach to healthy eating at any time. Just because we’re on holiday doesn’t mean we can’t nourish our bodies with healthy food, and just because we are at home doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate ‘fun’ foods. It’s all about the context for me, so I take the lead from my body and my dining companions. And I’d never say no to a ‘worth it’ moment!” – Amelia Freer
“I love eating seasonally for so many reasons. Firstly, it’s cost-effective, as what’s in season is almost always cheaper. Secondly, it’s often a more ecologically-minded way to eat, as we’re not relying on carbon-heavy production or air-freighted transport to get food to our plate – not to mention supporting our local producers. Thirdly, it’s more interesting, as we need to shift our menu to match the changing availability of produce, rather than sticking to the same few things week-in, week-out. And finally, it is great for nutrition as we enjoy a far wider variety of produce over the course of the year, which also varies our vitamin, mineral, phytonutrient and fibre intake. Plus, I’d say produce that is perfectly ripe and just moments from garden or field to plate tastes better too.” – Amelia Freer
When you start working out and you start seeing the results and feeling better, you instinctively want to eat better.
“Protein and fat do not trigger insulin, and they do not elevate blood sugar. So, when you eat a meal that’s based around protein and fat – say you had two boiled eggs, half an avocado and some olive oil, if you looked at your blood sugar graph after eating that, there would be no change whatsoever. Whereas if you were to have a bowl of porridge first thing with some oat milk and berries, you would see a real spike in blood sugar. And that’s because oats are a carbohydrate and carbohydrates break down into glucose and then get absorbed into the bloodstream and our blood glucose level increases. To keep you sustained in the water, I’d recommend some good quality protein like eggs or grass-fed dairy or meat (Or, if you’re plant-based, you could have organic tempeh or tofu) with some avocado and greens and a bit of toast.” – Grace Kingswell
“You want protein at each meal, and especially after exercise. But not just protein. You want a meal with complex carbs, protein and healthy fats. That’s just a minimum, a basic. And for me, that’s what I teach. Whether you decide to go for a tofu scramble or a hen’s egg – you need protein!” – Isa Welly
“Is there anything more delicious than a sun-ripened peach, bursting with sweet juice? Or a pile of fresh asparagus spears with a tangy olive oil dressing? Those are huge treats for me; seasonal foods that have a fleeting moment of perfection. Something to grasp and savour while it lasts, before the march of the seasons carries on. I fundamentally believe that eating for health can, and should, be joyful. It’s just a case of working out what that joy looks, feels and tastes like for us each as individuals.” – Amelia Freer
“I find healthy, home-cooked food comforting. It feels like a treat to me. I guess my home-town food, Togolese food, is what I find most comforting – delicious stews and things like that.” – Isa Welly
Good food is one of the most important, simplest pleasures that we have in life. It offers us a moment to pause, to savour and to be mindful every day. To share a delicious meal with others is just as nourishing for our souls as our bodies.
“We deserve to eat well all the time, because our bodies and minds deserve the best. Personally, I eat intuitively, and stick to real, whole foods, which give you fibre, vitamins and minerals. A workout shouldn’t really change how you eat. You should be eating in a balanced way all the time because it makes you feel better.” – Isa Welly
“Good food is one of the most important, simplest pleasures that we have in life. It offers us a moment to pause, to savour and to be mindful every day. To share a delicious meal with others is just as nourishing for our souls as our bodies.” – Amelia Freer