Masterchef star Dan Churchill talks training and practical paleo

Hailing from Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Dan Churchill was the personal trainer who charmed audiences on MasterChef Australia last year. Holding a Masters in Exercise Science, Dan advocates a holistic and practical approach to health and training. He’s also the author of two cookbooks, Dude Food and The Healthy Cook, and shares his love of paleo-inspired eating through his popular food blog. Let’s get to know Dan!

How do you start your day?

I always with a big feed for breakfast. So that might be a quinoa breakfast bowl or gluten-free and sugar-free granola. Followed by a gym session, swim and a long black before hitting the emails!

What does being healthy mean to you?

When people think of being healthy their default response is clean eating and regular exercise. However, to me, these are factors that help you become healthy, not what being healthy is. To be health means you are happy. You can be eating really clean and exercising every day, but you could also be very stressed and unbalanced and thus unhappy. This in my eyes is not healthy. It is important that everything is balanced, whether it be your activity levels, still including some indulgent foods and just hanging with your friends and family. There is no point eating really clean and exercising 24/7 if you’re unhappy.

Paleo banana breadHow do you nourish your body?

With my background and experience I know what I love and what is best for me. My number one rule is that no matter what I eat it has to be delicious. Most of the time I live by the paleo manifesto, but I also love pasta. Particularly when I make it for me and the boys from scratch). I also have a pretty serious sweet tooth, but an even stronger mental state. So in essence I learn to balance my meals. At the end of the day, if you continue to restrict your body from eating it does terrible things to your hormones. So I never restrict myself, I’ve just learned to have these things every so often, perhaps once every two weeks, but that’s also because I really love eating all the delicious, colourful food that comes my way.

We know you’re an amazing cook. What are some of your go-to healthy meals?

Cook? Hell no, I am terrible! Haha! Ahh where to start. I think a curry is great and so many people are put off by the fat, but if it’s prepared well it’s so good for you. You also can’t beat a crispy skin salmon with Asian greens. Or, if you want to go more hearty, a beautiful medium-rare steak with sweet potato puree and salsa verde is so simple and perfect for Friday night with the boys watching the footy!

Any health secrets you swear by?

The more natural and whole your food is, the better your digestion and absorption of nutrients. I am a strong advocate for the paleo way, however it’s important to be realistic and sustainable. Everyone is different and what works for you will not necessarily work for me, the same goes for your digestion. So find out what works for you and go with it. Also, never use numbers with your food. Don’t count calories. Just look for colourful wholefoods and if you’re hungry then eat!

What’s your approach to training?

My weeks are completely varied. I may do four big load sessions, that only go for 35 minutes, and are intense and use my whole body. I will combine this with stand-up paddling (SUPing) and boxing. Other weeks can be completely muscular focused. So doing more isolated movements over six sessions. I definitely listen to my body and mix up my sessions between Crossfit, TRX, resistance, boxing, SUPing and even stair sprints. I like to keep my body guessing. I love coming out of a session sweaty as hell and ready for a shower in the ocean. But everyone is different, so just listen to your body and find out what works for you.

What’s a common mistakes many guys make when it comes to health and fitness?

Lots of guys get caught up in quick fixes. Only caring about aesthetics and looking good without having any concern for their long-term health. Whether it’s because they have done poor research or have been given incorrect information, I find a lot of guys hit the gym with terrible technique without a concern for their backs and shoulders. But the biggest problem is their food intake. They have these shakes that are full of sugar, or they eat heaps of insulin-spiking carbs which may get them a little leaner in three weeks, but then in eight they are worse than when they started. Looking long-term is always the way to go. Training your body and eating in a way you can sustain or the rest of your life.

What’s in your grooming kit?

To be honest, the salt water from the beach is my favourite, it does wonders for everything. I do have a moisturiser though and a couple of ‘manfumes’ otherwise known as cologne.

What’s your fave healthy indulgence?

I have to say some sort of nut butter, like peanut, almond, or cashew. Or just cashews on their own are also absolutely amazing! I even add cacao to hazelnuts and peanuts and blend them in my Vitamix, then spread it on paleo bread.

Dan ChurchillAny tips for bringing more balance into your life?

When it comes to beating stress the first step is to identify what the main cause is. From there you work out how to eliminate it. If you’re working too hard, not sleeping well and then rushing to get the gym the workout is not going to benefit your waistline. This is purely because your cortisol (stress hormone) levels will continue to be elevated preventing fat metabolism. It’s ok to have a break and just have some time to relax. You can always add maca powder to your smoothies. This is an ancient super food that decreases stress hormones and blood pressure.

Do you have a personal motto or quote that resonates with you?

“For nothing is impossible if you truly want to achieve it”

Name three things you can’t live without.

Nuts, I have a serious love for cashews, walnuts and macadamias. The beach, I’ve lived near the beach my whole love and love it. And my mum. I feel this is probably a given for everyone!

For more healthy foodie inspiration connect with Dan on Instagram @Dan_Churchill