YANA™ Active x Athletes Cookbook: Eating for Function, a nutrition special

Why nutrition is important when reaching your goals

We thought we’d bring you something a little different with this piece and talk about nutrition, getting you to think about why nutrition is important when reaching for your goals.

We’ve teamed up with Ellen from Athletes Cookbook to talk to you about eating for function. Ellen is a qualified nutritionist with a degree in Sport and Exercise Science and is currently studying for her MSc Sports Nutrition. Ellen started her evidence-based nutrition platform, Athletes Cookbook, in 2019 to offer macro based recipes, meal ideas and advice for anyone struggling with nutrition.  In this piece, Ellen talks about what function we eat for, how tailoring our diet can help support our goals and provides us with a full day of nutritious recipes to try at home! 


Eating for function

When it comes to eating, what is your first thought? Is it eating for pleasure? Function? Nourishment? Or even punishment? Whatever it is, ask yourself if it is serving your goals? Is it serving what you want? Your mind, body and life?

We often find ourselves surrounded by a culture obsessed with dieting to look a certain way. However, eating well to serve your goals does not need to be complicated, yet with so many fad diets out there, it so often is.

People often want to model a healthy diet they can carbon copy, yet the thing with nutrition is, it is massively individual. Copying your best friends’ diet because she saw results isn’t necessarily going to give you the same outcome.

Now, while I'm not a pro athlete, I am fit, healthy, energised and strong enough for my purposes; I focus on eating for my function. By that I mean I fuel my body for the day ahead by using real foods (those that are unprocessed and of single ingredient). If I’m doing weight training that day, I’ll really focus on my protein intake. If I’m completing an aerobic training session, I’ll focus on good carbohydrates. If I’m resting, I’ll lower my overall intake for that day as I will not be expending as much energy.

I believe the best kind of ‘diet’ is one you can stick to. The stereotypically ‘good’ food should make up around 80% of your diet, contributing to energy levels and functioning of your body. The other 20% can be made up from those foods you really do enjoy.

Another positive to this sort of nutrient dense diet is that the higher volume foods help to regulate weight as it keeps you fuller for longer, helping to avoid the consumption of unnecessary calories that can contribute to weight gain.

Still struggling as to what eating for function would look like? Here’s an example of what I would eat on a normal day of weight training…


  • 2 eggs, scrambled
  • 1 slice wholemeal seeded toast
  • ¼ avocado, mashed
  • Handful of spinach
  • Glass of water and/or coffee

Each serving contains  ~ 341 kcal, 19g carbohydrate 20g fat, 22g protein


Sweet jacket potato with coronation chicken 

  • 100g Shredded chicken breast
  • 200g sweet potato
  • 3 tbsp light mayonnaise
  • Mild curry powder to taste
  • ½ tsp cinnamon 
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tbsp mango chutney 
  • 15g Sultanas 

Instructions:  Season the chicken breast and place in the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked through. Prick the sweet potato with a fork and pop into the microwave for around 8 minutes, until soft and ready to eat.  Once the chicken is cooked, shred it by using two forks to pull apart.

For the sauce you want to mix the mayonnaise, curry powder, cinnamon, black pepper, chutney and sultanas together in a bowl. Next, mix the combined ingredients with the shredded chicken. Pile on top of the sweet potato and enjoy!

Each serving contains  ~ 525 kcal, 54g carbohydrate 13g fat, 46g protein  



Chicken Fajita Bowl (Serves 2)  

  • 300g Chicken Breast, sliced
  • Fajita Seasoning 
  • 1 Onion, sliced
  • 1 Pepper, sliced
  • 160g of tinned sweetcorn 
  • ½ Cup of chopped lettuce 
  • ½ packet of wholegrain microwavable rice 
  • 50g of beans e.g.black-eyed beans, kidney beans etc.

Instructions: Chop and season the chicken with fajita seasoning and add to a frying pan with a little spray of light olive oil. Once the chicken has started to turn white through cooking, you want to add the chopped pepper and onion to the pan and leave to soften, stirring occasionally.

Whilst this is cooking, you can start to build your bowl by placing the sweetcorn and lettuce in sections in a bowl. Heat the beans in the microwave and then add them to the bowl too. Next, microwave the rice and add to the bowl. Finally, add the fajita chicken and vegetables to the bowl and tuck in.

Each serving contains  ~ 555 kcal, 66g carbohydrate, 7g fat, 55g protein  



  • Skyr yogurt with berries
  • Apple
  • Protein bar


We hope you enjoyed reading a different style of blog today. If you’d like more information about nutrition, visit @athletes_cookbook where Ellen has an array of helpful tips and recipes for you to enjoy!


Stay safe and stay home #everydaywarriors

Love, YANA x


Written by Ellen at Athletes Cookbook





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