Learn How This Chef Eats Well And Stays In Shape

We recruited fit chef Graham Neilson to teach us how to lift heavy in both the kitchen and gym.

Kirsten Curtis |

We’ve seen it in every cartoon and movie involving a restaurant – the head chef with a love for food and a belly to prove it. But that isn’t always the case in the food industry – chefs can stay fit, too. But how do you keep up a healthy lifestyle when you’re surrounded by good food every day? We recruited fit chef Graham Neilson to learn his secrets to lifting heavy in the kitchen and in the gym.

Related: Talking Gym, Food & Life With Executive Chef Terrence Ford

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Graham is a chef & restaurant owner who’s been a professional chef for the past two decades. He’s the owner of 9th Avenue Bistro and gourmet bone broth company, Dr. Broth. Despite his busy schedule, managing two food-related businesses, the 39-year-old still makes time for regular exercise and diets correctly.

A Foodie Is Born

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“I’ve always enjoyed eating; when I was younger it was definitely quantity over quality. I became interested in food and cooking in high school,” he recalls.

“We went to the original Harvey’s in Durban by Chef Andrew Draper. I ate rare pigeon & ostrich tartare, after that I wanted to know what else was out there.”

Pans, Pots And Kettlebells

“It was around the time I left university and started at chef school when I started focusing on getting fit and losing weight. This meant less drinking with the boys, eating better food, and doing much more exercise. From there I decided I’d rather stay that way. Now I always make time for exercise.”

Keto, Vegan Or Paleo?

“I am not really a fan of trends; it generally means that it will go away when people find something new to get excited about. That’s not to say that you can’t learn from new ideas and approaches.

“But each individual is different. You need to find out what makes you feel good and what you will stick with. I also think that if an approach genuinely works for people, and allows them to feel healthy for a long period – it won’t remain a trend but stand the test of time.”

Do you feel the need to use supplements?

“Some supplements sure: protein powder on days that I do weights. Omega 3 or fish oil, vitamin B, and Ashwangandha. If you work demanding hours like a chef and juggle regular exercise like I do, then your body needs the extra support. It’s best to get as much goodness in as you can from healthy, natural foods but it’s important that you also supplement your diet if necessary.”

Related: Creatine vs BCAAs: The Lowdown On Why They Work, And Which One We Think Is Best

Eat Like A Chef

Morning: “I start my day with green tea and lemon with a pinch of Himalayan pink salt. And have my breakfast mid-morning. It is usually a combination of avo, tomato, sometimes with toast or with ham or cheese. Then I have a protein smoothie with blueberries and almonds.”

Midday: “I have a cup of bone broth. Mid afternoon I make my lunch for my wife and I, which is usually a protein (chicken, beef, fish or ostrich) with rice or lentils, tomatoes and lots of spinach and broccoli.”

Evening: “I work at night so rarely have much more than bone broth. I need to taste quite a bit of food while cooking so that’s enough.”

Beat the cravings: “Cravings are easily overcome with espresso and bone broth – not together obviously.”

Train Like A Chef

“I do weight training twice a week with a bit of functional training. Twice a week I go to hot yoga and once or twice a week I do sprints with my wife. I never do more than an hour at a time.

“I try to avoid anything that involves endurance as it leaves me too tired to work properly. It’s taken me a while but I think it have the right balance.”

Related: What We Learnt From Riky Rick On Fitness And Fatherhood

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