If you are new to the gym world, perhaps starting out on a winter fitness journey or just generally unaware of how food can affect exercise outcomes then it can be tough to know where to start with your diet. We all struggle to decide what food and drink we should consume when we are working out. In this blog we try to give you tips to help you optimise your diet through your fitness journey.
REMEMBER: You should aim to eat a healthy, balanced diet whatever your activity level, we are all different, find what works for you, find what makes you feel good this is the best way of finding the nutrients you need. If you are still unsure you can always speak to one of our awesome Personal Trainers.
Food for energy
Starchy and other forms of carbohydrate provide a source of energy for your body to perform at its best.
In general, the more you exercise, the more carbohydrate you need to include in your daily meals and around exercise.
A demanding exercise schedule will use up your stored energy from carbohydrate quickly, so include some carbohydrate in most of your meals.
A diet low in carbohydrate can lead to a lack of energy during exercise, loss of concentration, and delayed recovery.
Healthy sources of carbohydrate include:
- Wholegrain bread
- Wholegrain breakfast cereals (including some cereal bars)
- Brown rice
- Wholewheat pasta
- Sweet potatoes (with skins on)
- Fruit, including dried and tinned fruit
Food for muscles
Eating protein-rich foods alone won’t build big muscles.
Muscle is gained by a combination of muscle-strengthening exercise, and a diet that contains protein and sufficient energy from a balance of carbohydrates and fats.
Most fitness enthusiasts can get enough protein from a healthy, varied diet without having to increase their protein intake significantly.
Healthy sources of protein:
- Beans, peas and lentils
- Cheese (in moderation), yoghurt and milk
- Fish, including oily fish like salmon or mackerel
- Tofu, tempeh and other plant-based meat-alternatives
- Lean cuts of meat and mince
- Chicken and other poultry
A source of protein should be included at most mealtimes to optimise muscle building.
Taking in protein before and after a workout has been shown to help kick-start the muscle repair process.
Training protein snacks:
- Milk of all types – but lower-fat types contain less energy
- Unsweetened soy drink
- Natural dairy yoghurt of all types – including Greek yoghurt and kefir
- Soy yoghurt and other plant-based alternatives
- Unsalted mixed nuts and seeds
- Unsweetened dried fruit
- Boiled eggs
- Hummus with carrot and celery sticks
Food before sport and exercise
You should allow about three hours before you exercise after having a main meal, such as breakfast or lunch.
An hour before exercising, having a light snack that contains some protein, and is higher in carbohydrate and lower in fat, is a good choice to help you perform during your training and recover afterwards.
Choose a snack that you’ll digest quickly, like:
- Fruit, such as a banana
- A slice of wholegrain bread spread thinly with a nut butter
- Yoghurt or non-dairy alternatives
- Cottage cheese and crackers
- A glass of milk or non-dairy alternatives
Snacks to avoid before exercise
These types of food may cause stomach discomfort if eaten just before exercising.
Fatty foods, like:
- Full-fat cheeses
- Large amounts of nuts
High-fibre foods, like:
- Raw vegetables
- High-fibre cereals
- Raw nuts and seeds
Food and drink during exercise
Most exercise lasting less than 60 minutes only requires water.
If you’re exercising for longer, have a quick-digesting carbohydrate and some electrolytes (salts and minerals), such as:
- An isotonic sports drink
- A banana
- Dried fruit
- A cereal or sports bar
- Carbohydrate gel
Make sure you’re drinking enough water (or similar) during your effort.
Water and exercise
Not drinking enough water can have a major effect on your performance.
You should start any exercise session well hydrated. This means drinking water regularly throughout the day.
The choice of drink depends on the intensity and duration of the exercise, and your training goals.
- Only water is needed for moderate exercise that lasts less than an hour
- An isotonic sports drink, milk, or a combination of high-carbohydrate food and water for hard sessions that last longer than an hour
You can make a homemade sports drink with 200ml of squash (not low calorie), 800ml water and a large pinch of salt.
What to eat after exercise
Food and drink also plays a part in recovering effectively from training.
If you train several times a day, refuelling with a source of carbohydrate and protein – such as a glass of milk and a banana – within 60 minutes of finishing your first session can help you recover faster. It is worth noting that Protein helps muscles to recover but be careful not to overdose on Protein heavy shakes. These aren’t required for most gym users.
If you’re training less than this or have more time to recover, make sure you rehydrate with water and eat as soon as you can afterwards. This might be your next main meal.
Food supplements and exercise
In general, a balanced diet will provide the nutrients and energy necessary for sport without the need for food supplements.
Exercise to lose weight
A demanding exercise routine can leave you feeling quite hungry if you’re not refuelling correctly in between exercise sessions.
If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll need to watch what you eat and drink after your workouts.
If you consume more energy than you burned during your exercise, you may find yourself putting on weight rather than losing it.
If you are unsure about any of the advice outlined in the above then please feel free to speak to one of our Personal Trainers. i-motion Gym are passionate about helping our members achieve their personal goals. With up to 400 classes a month, state of the art equipment and the best staff in the business.
Credit and further reading: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/
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