We have all been told that fuelling our bodies with the correct nutrients in the right amounts is key to optimal performance when exercising. Maybe you love football or are striving to be the world’s best rock climber. Maybe you just enjoy a leisurely walk on the beach in the evening. Whatever type of exercise you do you need to match your nutrition to it. Understandably, the ratio of various nutrients will vary between individuals depending on what the type of sport is, the intensity and the duration. Learn what foods you need to best fuel your favourite sport.
Carbohydrates are very important when it comes to providing energy for our bodies during a workout. Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in the liver and in muscles for use whenever we exercise. When we start to pound the pavement or dive into the pool this glycogen is broken down into glucose and used by our working muscles for energy. It’s important to be aware of how much carbohydrate YOUR body needs because any excess can be stored as fat. Choose wholegrain sources of bread, rice and pasta as this will provide a slow release of energy over the course of the workout and keep you feeling fuller for longer. A lack of carbohydrate can leave us feeling fatigued and sluggish.. not great for hitting the gym!
Protein is important for the general population but for athletes it is extremely important for growth and repair of muscle cells and for generation of new cells. A healthy balanced diet should be sufficient to supply all protein needs. A source of protein post-workout has been shown to enhance recovery. Sources of protein include lean meats, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, dairy products like milk and cheese, pulses and nuts.
Research has shown that endurance athletes should aim to consume 1.2-1.4g of protein per kg of bodyweight and those participating in strength type training should aim to eat 1.2g – 1.7g of protein per kg of bodyweight. 12 of the 20 amino acids in protein can be made naturally by the human body. The remaining 8 need to be obtained from our diet- we call these the ‘essential’ amino acids. Animal sources of protein contain all of the essential amino acids. If two plant sources of protein are eaten together (such as legumes and cereals) all essential amino acids can be obtained.
Even athletes have to be mindful of their fat intake. Excess fat in the diet will cause a person to gain weight which may have implications for performance in sport. Aim to consume fat from mono and polyunsaturated sources in nuts, seeds, oily fish and olive oil.
Active people need to consume adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals which can be obtained from a well balanced, healthy diet. Iron and calcium are of particular importance in active individuals. Iron-rich foods like lean red meat, chicken, eggs, spinach and dried fruit should be eaten with a source of vitamin C as this will aid the absorption of iron in the body. Calcium is present in foods like milk, cheese, yoghurt, green leafy vegetables and tinned fish. A source of vitamin D will help calcium to be absorbed.
Maintain a healthy, balanced diet which suits YOU and your activity levels. I’ll be very cliché when I say ‘listen to your body’ but it’s true. Fuel yourself with the right foods for your body and you’ll reap the rewards! Keep moving, it’s good for ya!