Nutrition and exercise is a big topic! Understanding why what we eat and drink are so important in our energy levels, ability to exercise and recover well too will be a massive help in getting the most out of your exercise and sports and your recovery roo. Whatever your activity, you need to fuel it! Here is a basic guide in supporting your training with good nutrition.
Macronutrients (Carbs, protein and fats) all play a role in providing energy, and recovery and repair. Carbohydrates are especially important as the body and brains primary source of fuel. Dependent on the type of exercise you are doing, fats may provide some energy too. Protein is essential to repair and recover.
The body stores approx. 500kcal of energy in the form of glycogen from your carbohydrates in the muscles, and a small amount in the liver, ready for immediate use. The greater your muscle mass, the more energy you can store – although you will also burn more with every movement! The glycogen is slowly burned throughout the day alongside fat, but during periods of intense exercise the body relies on this fuel only as it’s the quickest to be converted to energy. Hiit training, running, football, activities with intense or sudden bursts draw on stored glycogen primarily. Keep your carbs topped up ready to train, and if your session is longer than an hour, you will need to refuel as you workout. Immediately after exercise get some carbs in within 30 minutes to replenish your stores. You can reabsorb into the muscle at a faster rate during this post-exercise window it will aid your recovery, energy levels later and ability to workout again sooner.
Fat plays a role in energy provision too, but as a a ‘slow burn’ fuel. This includes stored fat. In moderate and everyday activity and gentle exercise fat is burnt alongside the stored carbs. It is a slower energy – so wouldn’t be effective in intense performance. Consider though that when your body is slowly using fat for fuel, its isn’t using carbs consumed, so these may end up as stored fat.
A tiny amount is used as fuel if available – but it’s the bodies last choice. However protein is used in tissue formation and repair so important in recovery. Most protein if surplus to requirements, is broken down and excreted. Spread your protein intake throughout the day and always aim for 1g, per kg of your bodyweight per day. You may require more if your exercise regime is intensive.
- Exercise creates free radicals – but exercise is always to be encouraged! It is really more important than ever to maximise your consumption of antioxidant rich produce when exercising to combat the extra free radicals, and support your immune system. Go for colour, variety, and get your rainbow in your diet, every day.
- B Vitamins are primarily responsible for the release of energy from food. Wholegrains, dairy, animal proteins and green vegetables are all good sources.
- Minerals magnesium, calcium, zinc and potassium are all important in muscle contraction so make sure you are consuming a varied diet to get these and prevent muscle tightness. Beans and pulses, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds plus meat are sources of all of these.
So, remember, you need all three macronutrients. Consider the timing of your carbs in particular to ensure you are fuelled and ready to train, and also replenish in the 30 minute after you stop. In addition to the supply of energy from your foods make sure your diet is rich in the nutrition that will specifically provide and replenish what you use.
Eat well, train well, recover well!