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The Colour-Fit Method With Founder Dr Tom Little

colour fit method
With Expert Insights From
Dr Tom Little
Dr Tom Little
Head of Performance at Sheffield United FC

Discover how to optimise your nutrition and fitness with the Colour Fit method,
an easy to follow nutrition plan used by elite athletes.

We sat down with nutrition expert Dr Tom Little, founder and author of the Colour-Fit Method, to discuss his ground-breaking nutrition plan and the book he has written, that enables sports participants of all levels to access the same benefits as the elite athletes he works with.

Watch the discussion here, or jump down the page to read what was said.

CONTENTS

What Is the Colour-Fit Method and How Did It All Begin?

The concept is not really designed just for athletes, it works for anyone.

The reason that I invented it is that young footballers I typically work with probably have far worse nutrition habits than the general public. So their need for that simplification and practicality was even greater than what the general public is.

But the concept just applies for absolutely anyone. It just so happens that my professional career has already always been in professional sports, so that was the easiest thing to introduce a concept. 

But right from the birth of it, I knew that it it was something that everybody needs. Everybody had problems around nutrition being a bit over complex, a bit impractical, a bit rigid, not based on science. So those were the fundamental kind of problem solving areas that I decided to tackle.

So yeah, I’ve been trying to tackle nutrition and improve it with my athletes for 20 odd years and just found it such a difficult task, despite throwing so many resources at it. 

So I took a step back and looked at what the problems are and, like I said, “How can I solve that?”, and the first point was around this simplification of identifying foods that are going to be appropriate to achieve your goal.

How Does Colour-Fit Simplify Nutrition Goals?

So for everybody, they generally fall into three categories: If you want to improve your health; If you want to change your body shape or maintain your body shape; Or you want to improve your performance or your energy levels for activity.  

So those are the three categories and we thought, “can we divide meals into those categories?”. And we found out that to a large extent that we could. 

So we made something called the health score that looked at all the kind of vitamins, minerals, fibre, good fats and the likes. All elements that are important to your health. And we found a way to quantify that and called that ‘health’ – made it gold, for a golden glow, and put a heart icon onto it. 

So there’s three layers of intuition for all the different goals that we’re aiming for: a colour, a name and an icon. 

For performance, carbohydrates fits into that nicely because it’s our most efficient form of energy, so it allows us to perform at our maximum levels. So we gave that a green colour, green for goal, we gave it a running man icon and called that performance fuel.

And then finally we have body shape. We thought protein fits into that nicely, because it makes us full for the longest, it has the lowest net calories and it boosts our metabolism as well.  We gave that a red colour, for burning metabolism, gave it a 6-pack icon and called it lean muscle.

Also, calories is super important, so we wanted a nice intuitive level to that as well. So we invented the speed gauge, that we called the calorie load dial, and that just again very intuitive. How full that is represents the calories within a meal. So if it’s really full, it’s obviously high, if it’s low it’s low.

So the proportions of the goals that we talked about fits in a pie chart at the centre of the plate and then the Colour-Fit gauge works around the outside and, thankfully, that looked just like a plate when I put it all together. And hey ho, the Colour-Fit system was born.

It doesn’t sound simple when you describe it, because it’s such a visual stimulus, but if anyone wants to have a a quick look at it, you can jump on to Amazon and look for the book – The Colour-Fit Method – 0r you can go on our website, which is Hero Pro Sports, and you’ll get a nice graphical image that’ll paint a picture of what I’ve just been rabbiting on about and you’ll see how simplistic it is.

Is There a Colour-Fit Method App?

So we got to this point where our players, our athletes, were able to choose a meal really intuitively that’s going to be appropriate for what they need to do.

The next stage was getting them to choose – it was probably the easy bit. It’s then getting them to actually make the thing. It’s adapting, changing their behaviour because a lot of them are really scared and intimidated by the kitchen. So at this point we decided to make short little meal video demonstrations for every single one of our meals and that was the real turning point where people – like I said, they found it quite intimidating, disengaged with nutrition – really found it quite absorbing. They were chatting about it in the morning and all of a sudden I thought I’m actually on to something here. 

So we developed the idea and made it a much more holistic app around nutrition. It was Colour-Fit Method then. I knew I had to take it to a larger scale because everyone wants a bespoke app when you talk about anything to do with anything these days. 

So I joined with a company called Hero Wellbeing that had a holistic wellbeing app. They wanted my nutrition element to sit in their platform. So it came in and then it exists on its own within the pro sport and wellbeing space as a nutrition app, and that’s been rebranded to Hero Pro now. So if you’re looking for anything to do with the brand, or the social or anything like that, it’s around Hero Pro or Hero Pro Sports. 

So that was a journey to that point and then we added lots of elements to help problem solve around the behaviours of nutrition. 

So we added fancy gizmos like any meal that you can choose, you can generate a shopping list and get those ingredients delivered to your door. You can buy meals directly on there. It’s got its own meal logger and barcode function which you can log your meals on there. 

But you can also get an expert to jump on your platform as well. Review your meals and write yourself meal plans as well, so that creates a nice behavioural loop of execute, plan, review and go again. So that’s been really good and it’s been huge that aspects been hugely successful in pro sport. 

Why Did You Decide to Write the Colour-Fit Method Book?

We’ve got over 100 users, all different elements of sport football mainly, but also rugby, cricket, national governing bodies at several levels, as far as Norway and Australia, so that’s been super pleasing and rewarding, particularly as I’m from pro sport. But, like I said at the very beginning, I always knew it was a concept that could work for the general public because they have the same problems and the easiest way to compliment that I thought would be the book.

So about four years later, at the point that the book’s being released now, I’m hoping it can help the general public as much as it’s helped athletes out there. 

How Did Your 6 Year Old Son Help Make Colour-Fit Easy to Use?

More than my son, I’ve got to thank Apple I must say because it was the fact that he could just pick up my phone and I haven’t told him a thing on what to do, and he’s six years old and he’s using it far better than I can. It’s just that cleverness in design that lends itself to intuitive behaviour.

I was thinking, these guys, they just need to look at it and know what to do. So that was a whole concept –  “How can I get down to that layer?” – and then by imparting it to what their goals are that they wanted to achieve, shaping everything towards that, I thought that was the easiest layer of intuition. 

So to go back to my son, as I watched him do it, I started to think and design these ideas and he was then clambering all around me and he started to say, “well, that makes you healthy, that makes you want some”, so that was a kind of an ‘aha’ moment that I thought we might have a chance of getting this message over to some footballers. 

How Can People Start Their Own Nutrition Journey?

I think the vast majority of people pick up any nutrition book because they typically want to lose weight. So that is a journey that a lot of them will just inherently know, and it is ingrained their mind and hence they bought the book. 

Very much intertwined with that is health. Health should always be the most dominant factor in nutrition, so people think about health and think it’s boring and bland and things like that. It needs to be far, far from that. Just simple little skills around cooking methods and seasoning and herbs and dressings. And you can easily make vegetables, salads and the like, some of the most delicious foods that you eat and and it’s simple. 

I’m not a good chef, hence this all came about so organically, and I think why it’s done well. I really struggle as well, so all the recipes that we choose – there’s over 120 odd in the book and over 400 on the app – every single one of them has to be simplistic to make. 

You’ll never find a long, complicated list of ingredients but at the same time we make real efforts to make sure it’s as tasty as possible, because no one’s gonna go back and make a meal if they don’t enjoy it, so that’s always the fundamental foundation, but also every recipe has to come from a health or performance perspective.

So inherently all our meals are going to lend themselves easily to most people’s goals.

How Does What We Eat Affect Our Goals?

So health and weight maintenance are the most common goals you see in there and they tend to go hand in hand, because a huge part of weight maintenance is health. A healthy diet. One that’s rich in, as I mentioned before, vegetable, salads, fruits and the likes, nuts and seeds.

These diets really really help with weight maintenance as well as boosting our energy levels, our health, our immunity and our inflammation. The list just goes on and on.

And I think disease prevention does have a huge effect on our weight maintenance, which is probably the most dominant risk to health in the Western world at the moment. Factors relating to diabetes, metabolic disease, obesity, again, so all these things are kind of intertwined as well.

But going back to what I was saying about health, if you eat a healthy diet, things like vegetables tend to be large volume but quite low calories, so they make us feel full as we’re eating them. They have hugely important nutritional elements in there that make us feel full as well. They have fat and typically have fibre in them.

So fibre just gets basically passed through the body – it isn’t absorbed as calories – and really helps our digestive system. It also acts as a food for our microbiome, which has all kind of bugs and things that live within us, which has been shown to be super important to our weight maintenance as well.

And then our bodies basically react to the nutrients we receive. So if it’s not getting nutrients, these vitamins and minerals and and good fats and the like, it keeps on sending out hunger signals. It needs these nutrients in the body. So if you’re having a poor quality diet you will feel hungrier because your body is still crying out for these elements it needs for basic functioning.

So with a healthy diet that really interlays itself into weight maintenance plus all the other benefits as well. 

How Does Colour-Fit Accommodate Changing Activity Levels?

The biggest part of Colour-Fit, and why I made it, is football players need something called carb periodisation. Where they’re varying the diet all the time because they frequently have to play important competitions. Training really hard but, when they’re not, it’s then very important that they promote other elements so they have got that holy triad of, they can perform well when they want to, but they’re also lean and they’re also healthy.

That’s the same for a person as well. If a person is active one day, that’s the day that they might want to take on a few more carbohydrates but, when they’re not, that’s the day that they’re really going to promote the health and lean muscle aspects to their diet.

So it’s teaching somebody to almost coach themselves in that intuitive manner, because the goals over time will change and their activity levels will change all the time as well, with the change of jobs or having kids or whatever it may be. So everybody needs something that is super flexible to go with their lifestyles that are going to be ever changing over time.

Healthy Diets Can Be Bland. How Is Colour-Fit Different?

Food is really one of life’s biggest enjoyments, so if you’re just taking it from a really rigid, bland viewpoint that you’re not going to be successful long term, you’re gonna form a bad relationship with food.

Like I said, food is an absolute joy. We all have things that we know they’re not necessarily good for us. the majority of us know the foods that are good or bad for us. It’s the actual behaviours of carrying out what we should and shouldn’t be doing. So I eat chocolate every single day, but I will have it in moderation.

I quite like dark chocolate as well, which is slightly better for us from a good fat profile as well, and so I would always encourage people to have a certain amount of regular treats in their diet because we should enjoy life and get the most we can out of it.

And it goes back to what I’m saying. Healthy foods are good diets that can achieve our goal. They don’t have to be bland. They don’t have to be rigid.

If you look at the most healthy people in these Blue Zone diets around the world, they eat a vast array of different foods and really enjoy their meal times, to sit down with the family and have this vast array of different bright colourful foods that have a whole range.

But what you see with that type of foods is that they’re Whole Foods. They’re natural foods that are found within nature that we can either catch or kill or grow that we’ve evolved to eat over millions and millions of years. 

In modern diets, we’re eating over 70% ultra processed foods that have a lot of the natural nutritional elements taken away from them and then things that are not good for our health added to them. Things like fats, things like salts, artificial colourings.

So that’s a good way of kind of approaching just a generalistic view of something that’s going to be a diet that’s enjoyable or good for us. 

Is it mainly whole food based? So is it like a fruit? A vegetable? A salad? Is it a meat? Is it nuts and seeds? Is it something along those lines? Is it a legume? Something that you like. Like I said, something that you can grow or can be caught but we’ve evolved to having our diet over millions of years.

And it goes back to everybody thinks that I’m gonna struggle to cook things but with a very little amount of knowledge and following simplistic recipes you could just give it a go. 

You’ll find that meals that are going to be really good for you can also be super enjoyable to make and also tasty as well. And we have something in there as well called meal builders.

What Are Colour-Fit Method Meal Builders?

So meal builders are a type of meal that you can very easily make a huge variety of. 

So things like stir fry, salads, tray rolls, casseroles, overnight oats, pancake sandwiches and the likes. And what we do, rather than just saying follow this recipe, we try and teach people the basic principles of how to build that meal, but do it in a way that’s going to support your goal and also make it tasty at the same time as well. And that way we’re not just saying, “right follow this recipe”. We’re actually encouraging cooking independence. 

Because nutrition is so nuanced, if you just tell us someone to follow a rigid meal plan, it never works because everybody has got different tastes. Different kind of social circumstances, different cultural circumstances, kids, economics. All these things that affect what they eat.

So they need to have ownership on what they’re what they’re putting on their plate, and so if you can teach them that it’s a lot better than just hitting them with recipe after recipe after recipe as well. 

What’s the Secret to Colour-Fit’s Success?

It’s entirely organic where it’s come from. I didn’t design this to write a book or create an app. I designed it to try and not get fired from my lads being overweight and not performing. It was a genuine journey of “how can I help these people?” and, if you’re in performance fear and you’re not solely focused on trying to help people, you’re not gonna last long. That is part of us.

So my nutritional aspect of that was, right, I really need to help these players feel better, have less risk of injury, perform better, and just to take care of themselves better from a holistic perspective. So I was desperate to do that.

Like I say, it’s just that journey of problem solving of getting to there. Coming up with an original concept that weren’t out, that does work, that is ultra simplistic, that was a really big part of it. And then obviously the practical side of it. The practical side is everything because it’s not what you know, it’s what you do. 

So that’s where the all the videos and the book contains QR links to video demonstrations of over 120 recipes in there. So that’s super important in terms of making it as practical as possible.

So I knew it would work so well with where I was working and then I’m fortunate enough, because I’ve worked for over 20 years, I have a good network within sport and I just started to put it out there a little bit – “I’ve generated this idea. Do you want to have a look at it?”

At the time it just existed on Google Drive, so it was free for me to edit it and there was no kind of development costs to it which, believe me, when you create the real thing is absolutely ginormous, and it just took off. 

I think the timing was great. Nutrition was really coming up. There wasn’t something anywhere and people just got it.

Once you see it visually in action it’s so simple, you just get it. And we all have this problem and this has solved it.

So it doesn’t matter who you are. Everybody in the world eats. It’s not kind of something that’s super specialised. It involves everybody, so that’s where it started to take off really well.

I had some real high profile clients, about half the Premier League using it, half the Scottish Premier League using it as well, but it was just a little old me with not much finance, with a full time job behind me, so I had to get somebody in to help.

That was a Hero Wellbeing journey and the rebrand to Hero Pro and that’s just got loads of all the bells and whistles I’ve talked about to make it a true kind of behavioural changing app as well. So people obviously bought into that as one of the best products on the market.

And then with the book I just, again, my pure naivety – if I knew about apps and things like that I would never have gone down there because it’s once you’re in there you realise what a scary world it is. I knew nothing about books as well, so all I did – I’ve got a few Joe Wicks books and looked on the Internet whose Joe Wicks’ publishing agent – found Jonathan Conway, brought him an e-mail. He loved the concept, obviously the allure of elite sport in there as well, but he got it’s gonna be useful for everyone and managed to get some really good publishers interested.

Went with Little Brown. I must say, I’m so chuffed with how they designed and brought it back, and how they guided me to make sure it was suitable. The language is entertaining as well and efficient for your lay person on there. And like I said, a lot of luck, a lot of good timing but a good concept at the heart of it. And I probably do myself a bit of disservice there because it it’s got several bespoke factors on there that didn’t exist.

The Colour Fit methodology. The simple video demonstrations for every single meal. The meal builder concept. All the meal plans that we designed from everyone.

Does the Colour-Fit Method Include a Physical Exercise Plan?

In the book as well we’ve also designed the training concept, and you might be able to put that on the show notes that we’ve also designed what we call the Training Load Gauge.

It works on a similar model to the the Colour-Fit Plate model, that uses icons, colours and gauges to make it really intuitive and it tells you what type of training you’re gonna be doing, how hard it’s gonna be, and then there’s video demonstrations for everything to make it super simple and practical again.

So if it’s an exercise, there’s always a QR link to the demonstration. If it’s a circuit, whatever it may be, there’s a link to show you how to do that circuit. 

So simple and practical all the way through, and that’s what everybody needs, if they’re going to live by it and be adaptable.

So we try and give a good rationale to everything that we do, so it’s not just copy it. You understand why you’re doing this type of training, this type of nutrition, take that and put it into your real world circumstances and make it work. 

Does Colour Fit Method Give People Elite Level Meal Plans?

Yeah, we’ve done a number of meal plans for numerous goals that already existed within the app and they were generated around elite sport mainly.

So we had them for multiple sports and different weight categories and the like, different health goals, different body shape goals like losing weight, increasing health. 

We had over 70 of those or kind of interactive meal plans on there, and we took them and we’ve adapted them slightly to involve more, not just meals that are within the book, but also just generic foods. So just fruits and things that they can grab. It’s simple sandwiches and the likes. 

So really simplistic, easy to follow meal plans that are in there but generally designed on a quite sophisticated elite level.

So yeah, it’s making them as accessible as possible, but they’re still really designed, there’s a logic behind everything that goes into the meal plans. 

And they’re covered right down to your absolute novice athlete right up to your kind of elite amateur for all your different sports and different needs in there as well.

So there’s a number of meal plans in there, so yeah, they’re a real high level, but super easy to understand and reasonably easy to follow.

But like I said, just providing someone with just a basic meal plan and expect them to just follow that to the tee, it’s not going to happen in the real world, they have to have that knowledge to make it nuanced to their tastes, their economics, et cetera, et cetera. And we try and provide that within the book. 

How Should People Track Their Progress?

Depends on what your goal is. So obviously if it’s performance, look at your performance levels and how good you feel the next day in terms of recovery. 

If it’s to do with body shape, and you want to lose weight, just look at yourself in the mirror. You can weigh yourself. I wouldn’t worry about it too much if you’re happy with the progress that you’re seeing in the mirror. The eyes, it’s so clever your brain, the eyes tell you a million things. So maybe a picture of yourself every two to three weeks. Something like that. 

Looking at change, you’ll see the changes in your clothes, so keep it super simple. You don’t have to get to the point where you’re doing very specific body fat analysis or anything like that. Just very common sensical things.

Most people already know. They don’t need me to tell them how they’re going to achieve their goals. They’ll know that they’re kind of achieving them. 

Where Can People Find the Colour Fit Method Book? And More About Your Work?

The book, probably the easiest place is in on Amazon. So just put in ‘the Colour Fit Method’. Sometimes it needs a dash between the ‘colour’ and ‘fit’. Or on Amazon it certainly doesn’t. I’ve been told on Apple Books it does.

It should be in all good bookstores, so if you go in and ask for it I’m sure it will be in there.

And then more information about the company can be found on our social. See my profile page for details, and if they want to get in in touch with me as well. So yeah, feel free to reach out. 

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