Telegraph feature: “Is this the only diet you’ll need?”

Fitness Truths: Increase your real food, water, sleep and walking, and complete 100 workouts a year. Is Jean-Claude Vacassin’s five-step plan the last body plan we’ll ever need?

With the January diet and exercise silly-season out of the way, now is the time that we can start to bring things back to centre and find a bit more balance in all our nutrition and exercise planning. The honeymoon period is over for most of us who started a rigid programme at the turn of the year, plus, a combination of disappointing results and the realisation that we can’t sustain what we started, will have dawned upon us.

So what now? The task now, as it probably should have been on January 1, is to find a way of moving and eating that will work for us in the long-term, very much as part of our lifestyle.

And here it is, in five simple steps:

1. Drink one litre of water a day for every 25kg of body weight
2. Eat real food, and stick to two to three palm-sized portions at each meal
3. Walk for half an hour a day
4. Complete one hundred workouts a year
5. Get 50 hours of sleep each week

These five pillars are the cornerstone of any approach, and in my experience work so well that it’s often the last diet plan that many of us will ever need to follow. Why? Because when push comes to shove, these pointers are all we need to consider. Which is good news, as all five steps are simple, practical and easy to do.

For those of us who want the slightly expanded version, here goes…

Stay hydrated: Regardless of the amount of water that we are currently drinking, most of us would probably benefit from drinking more. As with anything, too much is not beneficial, but most of us are some way from potentially disrupting our electrolyte balance by drinking too much. We all have different requirements, depending on various factors, but a decent starting guideline is to drink a litre of water each day for every 25kg of body weight. If this is significantly more than you currently drink, up your intake slowly, as we do not need to go from 500ml to three litres overnight.

Eat real food: The term ‘real food’ is a bit of a misnomer, but it is something that triggers the right associations for most of us. I like food writer Michael Pollan’s quote, “eat food, not too much, mostly vegetables”, as it pretty much sums up how we should eat, with a minimal amount of fuss. Beyond vegetables, most of our diets should be made up of fruits, meat, fish and poultry, nuts, seeds, legumes and pulses, some grains and some dairy, depending on personal preferences and tolerance. Everything else can, and should, be enjoyed, but should not be a staple. If we eat these foods, basing our meals on the palm-sized portion guideline, which is a palm-size or two serving of vegetables and a palm-size serving, or equivalent, of something protein rich, we are very likely to get what we need and gravitate to our natural weight. We can add other foods as required, but this is a good start.

Walk for half an hour a day: When all is said and done and the arguments about which type of exercise trumps the next are over, we would all be considerably better off if we just stood up more. In fact, I would bet that most of us will get all of the health benefits that we need, by simply drinking more, eating real food and staying on our feet of much as possible. And we should all walk more. Half an hour each day is my recommendation, everyday. This alone could transform most of us, both mentally and physically. And beyond a daily walk, we should consider a standing desk. If this is not viable, get up every half an hour, even if it just to sit back down again.

Complete at least 100 workouts a year: We all have our personal biases when it comes to exercise but remember that there is no right or wrong. There are only two real rules, which are that you have to move your body against some resistance, and you need to challenge yourself. This could be body weight training, pilates, yoga, interval training, circuit training, whatever, as it doesn’t really matter unless you have specific goals – my advice is do what you enjoy. The target is to complete at least 100 challenging workouts each year. More is fine, of course, but a century is the minimum we should aim for. Some weeks you will do more than others, no problems, just make sure you tick off 100 over the next 12 months.

Get 50 hours of sleep each week: It is very rare to meet anybody who gets enough quality sleep. But of course, how much sleep we get has a huge impact on our health, weight and fitness. People ask about supplements all of the time, some of which will work, but all of which will pale into insignificance compared to the impact that improved sleep has. Sleep really is that good, and best of all it is free and easily accessible. The jury is out about how much and in what cycles we should get our sleep, but most of us would do very well if we got seven to nine hours per night. Some nights we will get more than others, weekends for example, so just try to make sure you balance it out, by averaging at least 50 hours per week.

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