Nutrition and Exercise by Expert PT (and mum) Sophie
Without running the risk of telling anyone how to suck eggs during this article, I would just like to say, for most of you it will just be a refresher and some clarity around Nutrition for Sport & Exercise. I often get asked questions about this subject, as exercise and a healthy balanced diet come as a package, you can't do one without the other. It is also easy to confuse food groups, what they are good for, which ones you need, when you need them and also what to avoid. So I hope it helps.
In order for our physical and mental health to remain strong and healthy, we need to consume a balanced diet of nutrients, that can carry us through every day life. Not just for "Sports" performance, but for "Mummy" performance too! It is essential to fuel for the performance, but also for recovery.
Most of us are busy mums, and it's easy to forget about ourselves whilst making sure our little monkeys are catered for. This in turn causes us to reach for convenience over what our bodies and minds really need. So here is a little info on the main food groups to help make some better choices for fuelling for running/exercise and sport, which will in turn, help with day to day choices too. I will also give some advice as to when is best to eat whilst exercising and what to reach for.
The dreaded C word! Often deemed as "the enemy" in our diets. Whether you are a casual jogger or a professional athlete, Carbohydrates are essential, it's just a case of knowing which type of Carbohydrates do what. Most groups of foods have 2 or more types to it, Carbohydrates have 2. Refined and Complex.
REFINED Carbohydrates are stripped of pretty much all fibre, vitamins and minerals. For this reason they are considered as "empty calories" and lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, which in turn can drive overeating. Examples of Refined Carbohydrates are white bread, white pasta, white rice, pastries, fizzy drinks, sweets.
COMPLEX Carbohydrates are considered "better" because of the longer series of sugars that they are made of, which the body takes longer to break down. This means you will get lower amounts of sugars released at a more consistent rate, making this type of carbohydrate perfect for slow release energy for exercise, but also to make you less likely to reach for snacks between meals on a day to day basis.
No food is intrinsically good or bad, portion size and lifestyle come into play here too.
Drastic restriction of Carbs will lead to glycogen and fluid loss NOT body fat loss.
Our bodies need Protein to repair and grow muscle that's broken down during exercise. Regular exercise will mean you need a little more protein than usual. Proteins break down into Amino Acids that help grow and repair, so essential for recovery. Our muscles are made of the protein that we eat. The best way to give your protein levels a boost when training regularly is to choose lean cuts of meat, pulses & fish, also high in protein are vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains and soy products.
WHEN TO EAT WHILST EXERCISING REGULARLY
To keep it simple - focus on Carbs before training/exercising/playing sport. This will fuel your body for the main event. Choose the Complex Carbs as they are slow burning, releasing energy at a steady pace to carry you through. I personally have to wait at least 3 hours before training after a meal, but everyone is different. A banana or light snack is always fine 30-60 minutes before exercise if you need that extra boost. If you are running or exercising for longer than an hour, take an energy drink or some energy sachets for an instant boost, as Glycogen stores become depleted. Not everyone feels like eating immediately after exercise, but a light Carbohydrate based snack will replenish your Glycogen stores if you haven't managed to do it during. It is then advised to opt for a Protein based meal, to aid muscle repair and damage.
Protein shakes and supplements are a huge market at the moment, but realistically, you should not need to take any supplement if you are consuming a balanced diet of nutrients. You should always seek advice from your GP or Sports Nutritionist before taking any supplement.
HYDRATING FOR EXERCISE
I know I'm guilty of not always drinking enough water - its so easy to forget as the day goes on, but even if we are not regularly exercising, we should be drinking at lease 6-8 glasses a day, around 2 litres. This should be mostly water. The best way to check that you're hydrated is to check the colour of your urine, the lighter in colour the better! Staying hydrated regulates your body temperature and lubricates your joints, it also reduces muscle cramps and will generally help you perform at your best.