When you are exercising regularly you may start to look and feel like a superhero. Your body is strong and lean and you can run a half marathon without breaking a sweat on a lazy Sunday afternoon. But, while this level of exercise has many health benefits, it is going to be difficult to maintain on a long term basis without the right nutrition to back it up.
Just like a car, your body needs the right fuel to go the distance and here are some food tips for the beginner athlete to make sure you’re Nascar worthy rather than the rust bucket destined for the Demolition Derby.
Along with fluids, important nutrients to consider include carbohydrates, protein and fats:
Carbohydrates are Not Your Enemy
It is quite common for high performance athletes to carb load in the days before an important event. Carbohydrates help to provide additional energy boost, and give the muscles extra glycogen – which can be used for fuel during physical activity. More fuel = more endurance. Olympic gold, here we come! Eating too much straight before exercise can have the opposite effect making you feel uncomfortable, so try to wait 1-3 hours before putting on those skin tight leggings. This will help to avoid any adverse reactions. After a workout it is important to include carbohydrates to help rebuild your glycogen. Good carbs include wholegrain breads, cereals, sweet potato and brown rice.
Protein Packs a Punch
Protein is often talked about in the sporting world, and isn’t hard to see why. Protein is a friend to your muscles, it helps to repair while preparing them for activity. Protein is part of the process of making red and white blood cells as well as hormones and enzymes. Hard working, just like you! When I say protein I don’t mean a big juicy Whopper from Hungry Jacks. Think about lean meats, beans, and fish – giving any bigger meals time to digest before you lift. Post workout, be sure to eat protein along with your carbohydrate within 45 minutes to help keep those muscles happy. Suggestions include a tuna sandwich, eggs on toast, banana smoothie or chicken and rice.
Go for Good Fats
The right kinds of fat are not as bad as their reputation, but less is more. Fats take time to digest so shouldn’t be eaten too soon before a workout. Good fats can help your skin, brain and nervous system. Try a small handful of nuts, peanut butter, avocadoes and fish. While you shouldn’t sit down with a 2 litre bottle of Iced Coffee and a nutty sundae, there are healthy ways to get the good fat in small doses which will help your overall performance.
It isn’t a myth that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Your body has gone hours without fuel and your glycogen is at its lowest from all those Zzz’s. If you skip it, you might feel a little flat and your training outcomes not as successful as they could have been. If early morning exercise is your style, wake up to a snack such as a banana and finish with a nourishing breakfast afterwards.
Water, Water – Pour Yourself a Drink
Water, the potion of life. We hear it all the time, a large percentage of your body is water (60%). Serious exercise requires serious sweat – and that fluid needs to be replaced. Failing to drink enough of the clear stuff could leave you dehydrated with symptoms of dizziness and lethargy. When you begin to feel thirsty, the symptoms of dehydration are already starting to kick in. Make sure you are well hydrated before you start exercise, take sips throughout and rehydrate afterwards. Carrying around a drink bottle will help you stay hydrated, so try to make it a habit and you will begin to appreciate the benefits.
If you are opting for a sports drink, they can be beneficial during endurance activities to quickly restore glycogen stores and rehydrate. Keep in mind they are high in sugar and probably not required if you are just going for a walk around the block.
If your stomach is rumbling and you feel the need to eat before exercise, try a snack1-2 hours before. Suitable snacks include fruit, smoothies, cereal, yoghurt or sports bars.
Taking care of your body’s nutrition will help you reach your goals and not fall in a heap. Eat right, play right!