Regardless of your activity level, you should aim for a healthy, balanced diet that provides you with all the nutrients you need.
This article shows you how much of each food group you should eat to find the right balance.
Foods for energy
Starchy and other carbohydrates serve as a source of energy for your body to perform at its peak, regardless of your activity or sport.
Generally, the more you exercise, the more carbohydrates you need to consume in your daily meals and during exercise.
An intense training program will quickly deplete your stored carbohydrate energy, so you should consume carbohydrates at most of your meals.
A low-carbohydrate diet can lead to lack of energy during exercise, poor concentration, and delayed recovery.
If you want to adopt a low-carbohydrate diet for your sport, you should seek advice from an expert.
Healthy sources of carbohydrates include:
- Whole grain bread
- Whole grain breakfast cereals (including some granola bars)
- brown rice
- whole grain pasta
- potatoes (with skins)
- Fruit, including dried and canned fruit
Food for muscles
Eating foods that contain protein does not lead to muscle growth
Muscle is built through a combination of muscle-strengthening exercise and a diet that includes protein and adequate energy from a balance of carbohydrates and fats.
Not all the protein you eat will be used to build new muscle. If you eat too much protein, the excess protein will be used primarily as an energy source once your body has met its muscle-building needs.
Most fitness enthusiasts can get enough protein from a healthy, varied diet without significantly increasing their protein intake.
Healthy sources of protein:
- Beans, peas and lentils
- Cheese, yogurt and milk
- Fish, including fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel
- Tofu, tempeh and other plant-based meat alternatives
- Lean cuts of meat and ground beef
- Chicken and other poultry
A protein source should be included in most meals to optimize muscle building.
Consuming protein before and after exercise has been shown to help kick-start the muscle recovery process.
- Milk of all types, but low-fat contains less energy
- unsweetened soy drink
- Natural milk yogurt of all kinds, including Greek yogurt and kefir
- soy yogurt and other plant-based alternatives
- unsalted mixed nuts and seeds
- unsweetened dried fruits
- boiled eggs
- hummus with carrots and celery
Nutrition before sports and exercise
After your main meal, such as breakfast or lunch, wait about three hours before exercising.
An hour before exercise, a light, high-protein, high-carbohydrate, low-fat snack is a good choice to help you recover during and after exercise.
For example, choose a snack that you can digest quickly:
- a fruit, such as a banana
- a slice of whole-grain bread, thinly spread with nut butter
- regular roll or fruit roll with low-fat cheese
- yogurt or non-dairy alternatives
- cottage cheese and crackers
- A glass of milk or non-dairy alternatives
Snacks to avoid before exercise
These types of foods can cause stomach upset if consumed immediately before exercise.
Fatty foods such as:
- Chips or potato chips
- Fatty cheeses
- Large amounts of nuts
High fiber foods, such as.
- raw vegetables
- High-fiber cereals
- Raw nuts and seeds
Eating and drinking while exercising
For most workouts of less than 60 minutes, only water is needed.
If you exercise for longer, consume rapidly absorbable carbohydrates and some electrolytes (salts and minerals), such as
- an isotonic sports drink
- glass of milk
- dried fruit
- Cereal or sports bar
- Carbohydrate gel
Make sure you drink enough water (or similar) during your efforts.
Water and exercise
Lack of water can have a big impact on your results.
You should start every exercise well hydrated. This means drinking water regularly throughout the day.
Your choice of drink depends on the intensity and duration of the exercise, as well as your exercise goals.
- For moderate exercise lasting less than an hour, only water is needed.
- Isotonic sports drink, milk, or a combination of carbohydrate foods and water for hard workouts that last longer than an hour
You can make a homemade sports drink with 200 ml of pumpkin (not low calorie), 800 ml of water and a big pinch of salt.
What to eat after exercise.
Food and drink also play an important role in effective post-workout recovery.
If you exercise more than once a day, you can recover faster if you eat a source of carbohydrate and protein, such as a glass of milk and a banana, within 60 minutes of your first exercise session.
If you exercise less or have more time to recover, make sure you drink water and eat as soon as possible afterward. This could be your next main meal.
Article from the NHS UK website