Whether a professional athlete, exercise aficionado or complete beginner, everyone who exercises can benefit from good nutrition. Your body creates energy and builds muscle from what you put in your mouth, and so certain foods and supplements can go a long way towards optimising performance.
Unfortunately, many people see exercise as a green light to eat whatever they want, because they think “I’ve earned it” or “I’ll burn it off”. Sadly, this is a bit of a fallacy – not only do those foods contain few nutrients to help your body produce energy and strength, but they also take much longer than you’d think to “burn off”. For instance, that chocolate bar you couldn’t resist after lunch is the equivalent of:
- Over an hour of Aqua aerobics.
- Nearly two hours of Pilates.
- 40 minutes on the rowing machine.
- An hour and a half of weight training. OR
- 110 minutes of walking the dog.
Surely there are much better ways to go about things. Starting with the basics, your meals need a good balance of:
- Carbohydrates to fuel your work out. Low GI are best, as they give you sustained energy.
- Protein to rebuild muscles, and to provide amino acids that have specific roles in the body. Protein is also important for hormone production, which contributes to body building and reshaping.
- Fats for hormone production and energy.
In addition to this, specific considerations apply for each athlete. For example, marathon runners may need to carb-load before events, body builders might need a quick burst of protein in the 40 minutes after they work out, and other types of athletes might find it useful to have quick acting carbs, such as glucose gels for longer events.
There are many specific nutrients and functional foods that can enhance performance, strength and energy for sports-people. Some common supplements include protein shakes (for enhanced muscle building), glutamine (to reduce post-exercise soreness, increase growth hormone secretion and prevent muscle breakdown) and creatine (for increased energy during weight lifting, as well as increased muscle mass). There are many others, which we will discuss in the blog over coming weeks.
The range of sport supplements all provide unique and individual benefits. Some will help you bulk up your muscles, while other ones will help you develop a leaner, stronger physique. Others yet increase energy or reduce muscle soreness. Often, combining a number of different supplements works better than just one in particular.
To help you make the right choices, Vive Health have just created a new Sports Nutrition webpage, where we list our favourite supplements and foods for sportspeople.
If you have any questions at all, please feel free to send them in, as we love to hear feedback. And stay tuned for more info on effective sports supplements and nutrition.