Whether it be running, attending the gym more often, or embracing a new fitness regime, it's always important to look after number 1 throughout the process.
Here are our top 3 take aways:
1. Don’t compromise a healthy diet purely because you are exercising
It’s not uncommon for many of us to gravitate towards higher sugar or ‘comfort’ style foods when we up our fitness regime.
It’s important to remember that just because you are exercising more, it doesn’t give you a green card to indulge in burgers or lollies every day - if anything, moving more will increase the need of quality nutrients in order to nourish, heal, and fuel your body (see tip 2 below).
Secondly, it’s normal for you to feel hungrier when you are moving more - your body is using more energy and therefore your energy requirements may also increase slightly. With this in mind, make sure you are eating a diverse range of whole foods at every meal and building a balanced plate - this means half a plate full of vegetables (spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, rocket, capsicum etc), ¼ of your plate with good quality protein (eg. organic meat, locally caught fish, or organic tempeh or tofu), ¼ low GI carbohydrates (eg. mashed sweet potato, cooked quinoa, cooked brown rice) - add in some seeds, ½ an avocado, or a delicious tahini olive oil dressing to get your dose of healthy fats. By eating a balanced meal at every meal, you’ll ensure your energy levels remain consistent throughout the day and that your blood glucose doesn’t spike and fall.
Lastly, don’t forget to hydrate. Our bodies struggle to heal properly and work efficiently when they are dehydrated - a lack of water will impair your performance athletically. Ensure you are getting at least 2 litres of water per day plus consuming between 400ml - 600ml of water 2 hours before exercising. Hydrate every 20 minutes with a small amount of approx 150ml water. For long distance runners or athletes exercising for over an hour, it can be beneficial to hydrate with the addition of electrolytes to re-balance what is lost through sweat.
2. Understand what micronutrients you might be using up now that you are moving more
When we move more we not only use a variety of key vitamins and minerals, but our bodies also need certain micronutrients in order to function optimally (which is why a balanced, whole food diet is absolutely essential) - ensure that you are getting enough of these through your diet or through good quality supplementation (you can work with a health practitioner or visit your local pharmacy and ask the in-house naturopath or pharmacist for this):
Electrolytes - these are minerals which have a range of functions in the
body including maintaining water balance, aiding in the contraction & relaxation of your muscles, and helping in the transmission of nerve impulses. The most common electrolytes are potassium, sodium and chloride. With regular exercise, it’s easy to lose these electrolytes through your sweat. A great way to get all of your electrolytes is to consume natural (not processed) coconut water after exercise or to sip throughout your run/workout. Other sources of electrolytes come from sea salt, nuts, bananas, fish and potatoes.
- Magnesium - every cell in our bodies contain (and require) magnesium in order to function optimally. It is a mineral which is used in hundreds of different bodily reactions and plays a crucial part in creating energy, forming new proteins from amino acids, creating and repairing DNA, aiding the movement of muscles, and regulating our nervous system. Unfortunately many people just aren’t getting enough magnesium in their day to day diets and sometimes supplementation is necessary especially when energy output is high. The best absorbed supplemental magnesium is magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate. Taking magnesium after working out can help to soothe sore muscles, relax the nervous system, and ensure a good night’s sleep.
- Vitamin C & B vitamins - these vitamins are water soluble and don’t get stored in your body. Exercising more, sweating more, and hydrating more can increase the amount of fluid excreted from your body - including these vitamins. We also use these vitamins more in the exertion of energy through exercise as they play key roles in many different metabolic processes within our body (including turning food into energy!). A lack of these vitamins can therefore affect our energy levels, our immunity, and also our digestive processes. Find Vitamin C in a range of fruit and vegetables including tomatoes, berries, spinach, brussel sprouts and red capsicum. Our B Vitamins can be found in an array of foods ranging from meats and seafood, through to grains, and dark leafy green vegetables.
Getting in some down time each week is crucial to your ability to recover and recuperate. Every time we exert physical energy whether it be through running or at the gym, we cause tiny amounts of tissue damage within our body, and without adequate ‘down time’ your body cannot rebuild and strengthen those tissues as effectively as it is supposed to. Blood needs to be able to move freely into the tissues (especially our tendons) in order do its job, and when the body is stressed or inflamed (from too much exercise), its ability to do this will be compromised. Excessive exercise can also be a form of stress - couple that with other stressors such as emotional stress or workplace stress, and your body might be running on empty before you know it. Allow one or two days a week of resting - it will enable you to perform much better in the long term.