We all know how important it is to take regular exercise. It is recommended that we aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week, which equates to 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. And hopefully some fresh air too!
Fuelling ourselves with the right nutrition will help produce the best results when it comes to fitness.
Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top five nutrition tips for fuelling your activity.
When talking about exercise and protein in the same sentence, it often gets muddled with ‘body building’. However, protein is not just for those throwing lots of steel around, it’s for all of us! Protein is essential for building strong muscles and bones but is also very important for repair after exercise too. Interestingly, we often underestimate the amount of protein required for optimal wellness. So how much do we need?
It does really depend on the amount of exercise you’re doing. If you lead a reasonably active life, then aiming for 1.2g of protein per kg of body weight is a good average. Some days it may be more, some days a little less but it’s important to try and eat protein at every meal. The good news is there are plenty of options: meat, fish, cheese, eggs, lentils, beans, dairy produce, nuts, seeds and poultry are all good options.
Seeing the words ‘healthy’ and ‘fat’ in the same sentence can often be confusing. True, having a diet that is high in saturated fats such as meat, cheese and butter is not recommended but it’s important to have plenty of healthy fats in your diet (aim for around 20-30% of overall calorie intake).
Healthy fats are the essential omegas found in fish, nuts and seeds, avocados, olive oil, nut butters and eggs. Fat is needed for the body to absorb our fat-soluble nutrients, especially the all-important vitamin D, essential for muscles and bones. It is also an important energy source for the body. When it comes to exercise, fat is an important part of nutritional balance, so include some healthy fats in your diet every day.
In broad terms, carbs are broken down into glucose, which is used as our main energy source, especially for the brain. However, the body can run pretty much exclusively on fat in the case of ketogenic diets but does need some training to be efficient.
When it comes to general exercise, carbohydrates provide great fuel and often in the form of easy snacks. We often forget that fruits and vegetables are carbs and of course these should feature highly in the daily diet. Plus, the more you exercise, the more free radicals are produced, so we need plenty of antioxidants in the diet, which fruit and vegetables provide.
If you’re going for a long walk or run, for example, then you may need to take a snack to keep you going. Bananas are great snacks because they provide glucose and some fructose, that can be quickly absorbed.
We so often forget the importance of being properly hydrated, not just for exercise but for daily life. In a ‘normal’ day, we should really be drinking 1.5 – 2 litres of water daily, as a minimum. However, if you’re going to exercise, try to drink around 500ml in the couple of hours before you start. Dehydration can be a big issue when it comes to exercise performance.
Top exercise foods
Whilst a varied, balanced diet is essential for a healthy lifestyle, and especially if you’re exercising, we can always harness the power of nature by eating more foods that give you some extra energy.
First up is beetroot which specifically helps to power endurance exercise. It’s primarily down to beetroot’s ability to produce nitric oxide in the body, which dilates the blood vessels allowing more oxygen to pass through.
Flaxseeds are another winner to sprinkle onto your morning cereal or oats; they are loaded with omega-3s which help manage inflammation in the body, therefore reducing the risk of injury and improving exercise recovery.
Lastly, why not load up with some pumpkin seeds? They’re a great source of zinc and iron, both needed for immune support. Iron is also essential for the production of red blood cells, essential to transport oxygen around the body.
So, fuel your body well and get the most out of your exercise!
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