You need support to eat properly?
Thanks to a good experience through sport competitions, whether you are involve in it or not, I could provide you a personalized advises to eat the right things regarding your activities and goals.
Foods for fuel and exercise
The main role of carbohydrates is to provide energy.
When they are digested, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose to provide readily available energy for the body to use quickly and effectively. Carbohydrates are the most important form of fuel for exercise and sports activities. The body can store carbohydrates in the muscles and liver as glycogen, and use these stores as a source of fuel for the brain and muscles during physical activity. These glycogen stores are limited, so it is important to be fully fuelled at the start of any exercise. By not having adequate carbohydrate in your diet for exercise, you may feel tired and lacking in energy and not be able to perform at your best. So, regular intake of carbohydrate-rich foods is important to keep stores topped up.
Good sources of carbohydrates in the diet include:
Breakfast cereals and porridge oats
Potatoes (with skins) and other starchy vegetables (e.g. sweetcorn)
Beans and pulses
Protein is also important for health and physical activity. The main role of protein in the body is for growth, repair and maintenance of body cells and tissues, such as muscle.
Different foods contain different amounts and different combinations of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). Essential amino acids are those that the body cannot make itself and so are needed from the diet. The full range of essential amino acids needed by the body (high protein quality) is found in:
Animal sources – meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt.
Plant sources – soy, tofu, quinoa and mycoprotein e.g. Quorn™.
As some high protein foods can also be high in saturated fat, it is important to choose lower fat options, such as lean meats or lower fat versions of dairy foods.
Do I need extra protein to build muscle?
It is a common myth that consuming lots of extra protein gives people bigger muscles. Quite often, people taking part in exercise focus on eating lots of protein, and consequently may not get enough carbohydrate, which is the most important source of energy for exercise. A modest 20g of high quality protein, equivalent to approximately half of a medium sized grilled chicken breast or a small can of tuna, has been shown to be enough for optimum muscle protein synthesis following any exercise or training session. Any more protein than this will not be used for muscle building and just used as energy!
|Food source||Serving size||Protein content (g) per serving size|
|Chicken breast grilled||Medium (130g)||42|
|Salmon fillet grilled||Large (170g)||42|
|Rump steak grilled||115g (5oz)||36|
|Tuna canned in brine||Small can (100g)||25|
|Baked beans||1 can (415g)||22|
|Haddock grilled||Medium (85g)||20|
|Eggs||2 average size eggs (100g)||13|
|Lentil soup||1 can (400g)||12|
|Half fat cheddar cheese||4 tbsp grated (40g)||11|
|Low fat milk||300ml||10|
|Greek style plain yogurt||Small pot (120g)||7|
|Low fat fruit yogurt||Small pot (120g)||7|
Fat is an essential nutrient for the body, but it is also a rich source of energy. Consuming too much fat can lead to excess energy intake which can lead to weight gain over time.Most of us eat too much saturated fat so to cut back on intakes, limit foods such as:
Pastries, cakes, puddings
Chocolate and biscuits
Some savoury snacks
Cream, coconut cream and ice-cream
Hard cheeses including cheddar
Butter, lard, ghee, suet, palm oil and coconut oil
Processed meats like sausages, ham, burgers and fatty cuts of meat
Fried foods including fried chips
Tips for making simple swaps to cut down on saturated fat:
|Foods containing a high proportion of saturated fatty acids||Swap for…|
|Butter, lard, ghee
Palm oil and coconut oil
|Smaller amounts of oil containing unsaturated fats:
|Processed and fatty cuts of meat||
|Whole milk, condensed milk or full-fat creams||
|Cheeses that are high in fat, (e.g. cheddar)||
|Other tips to help cut down on saturated fat…|
|Cooking – frying, deep frying, roasting||Try boiling, poaching, steaming, baking or grilling and add a minimal amount of fat.|
|Shopping||Take time when food shopping and read food labels carefully to help you choose foods that are lower in saturates.|
How to stay well hydrated
Sufficient fluid intake is essential for exercise and optimum recovery. Exercising causes the body to get warmer, so the body tries to cool down by sweating. This causes the loss of water and salts through the skin.
Small water losses are not harmful. However, dehydration (water loss in excess of 2-3% body mass) can cause tiredness and hinder performance by reducing strength and aerobic capacity (especially in longer duration exercise), as well as having a negative effect on any further exercise sessions. So, try and stay hydrated before, during and after exercise to prevent dehydration – water is generally best, but in cases of high-intensity exercise and excessive sweating, an isotonic drink may be better (see later section that covers other drinks).
Putting nutrition into practice
The timing of eating and exercising can be important for how you feel and perform during your chosen activity. The body needs the correct fuel in the tank to perform well, however you want to avoid feeling too full or too empty during exercise.
Individuals vary in their preferred timing of food intake and amount that can be eaten before exercise. Some may find two hours is plenty of time to digest their meal, whereas others may feel uncomfortable when taking part in activity and need a bit longer. Experimenting with what, how much and when will help decide what suits you best!
Tips to plan your meals and snacks:
Preparation – your pre-exercise meal, whether it is breakfast or lunch, should be around 2-3 hours before and include a good amount of starchy foods to ensure you have enough fuel in the tank. A small snack 30-60 minutes before exercise can help to top up energy levels.
Recovery – base your post-exercise meal on starchy foods and include some high quality, lean protein to help restore glycogen levels and muscle protein.
Both meals should also include some fruit and vegetables.
Good snacks for immediately after exercise should contain some protein, such as unsalted nuts or a glass of milk.
Try to opt for wholegrain carbohydrates and high quality protein foods, as well as nutrient-rich snacks.
Ideas for meals and snacks
Below are some examples of suitable meals and snacks for an individual who exercises.
|Porridge with low fat milk and fruit||Baked potato (skin on) with tuna, and salad (use low fat mayonnaise)||Wholemeal pasta with grilled chicken and vegetables in a tomato based sauce||Fruit
Vegetables sticks with houmous
Low fat fruit yogurt
Reduced salt/sugar baked beans on wholemeal toast
Guacamole, ½ wholemeal pitta
Rye crispbread with low fat cheese and grapes
Unsalted nuts or seeds
Low fat milk
Fruit smoothie (made with low fat milk and banana)
Oatcakes with peanut butter
|Muesli (no added sugar) or wholegrain cereal, with low fat milk and fresh or dried fruit||Eggs (boiled, poached, scrambled, omelette) on wholemeal toast with vegetables||Chilli con carne – lean mince, kidney beans, chopped tomatoes and brown rice|
|Wholegrain or granary toast with peanut or other nut butter and 100% fruit juice (150ml)||Chicken and salad sandwich, using wholemeal bread or wrap||Salmon with boiled new potatoes (skins on) and vegetables|
|2 thick slices of wholemeal toast with scrambled egg, a grilled tomato||Lentil and vegetable soup with whole wheat roll||Stir fry – whole wheat noodles, lean meat (chicken, turkey or beef), tofu or prawns and vegetables.|
|Low fat greek or plain yogurt with banana, berries, seeds and cereal (e.g. oats)||Couscous or quinoa salad with chicken, roasted vegetables and kale||Fish pie (potato topping) with green vegetables|
Common sports nutrition questions
Do I need to take protein shakes and supplements?
Among recreational gym-goers, protein supplementation has become increasingly popular for muscle building, but is generally unnecessary.
For most active people the body’s protein needs can be easily achieved from a healthy, varied diet, with good choices of high quality, lean protein foods being incorporated into meals and snacks.
After competition sports or an intense training session, high quality protein powders can be a more convenient and transportable recovery method when there is limited access to food, and may be effective for maintenance, growth and repair of muscle.
However, unlike protein supplements, high protein foods will typically also contain essential vitamins and minerals.
A whey protein shake contains around 20g of protein – 20g of protein equates to half a chicken breast or a small can of tuna.
Taking protein far in excess of requirements through high intake of protein supplements may cause long term health risks (e.g. may increase the risk of poorer bone health and osteoporosis or accelerate any existing kidney problems).
When exercising, should I drink anything other than water?
In most cases, for exercise and activities up to one hour, water is sufficient for hydration. For exercise that is longer and more intense, other types of drinks may be considered.
Sports drinks: Isotonic sports drinks contain carbohydrates in the form of glucose, as well as electrolytes such as sodium. The electrolyte sodium will replace any lost from sweating and enhance rehydration, and glucose will replenish carbohydrate stores. Sports drinks have been shown to help endurance performance for active individuals performing endurance exercise (e.g. participating in a marathon). However, remember that sports drinks are similar to other soft drinks that contain sugars. This means that they can be high in calories and contribute to tooth decay, so they are only suitable if taking part in high-level endurance sports or if sweat loss is high.
Sports drinks can be expensive compared to other drinks; however it is easy to make them yourself! To make your own isotonic sports drink, mix: 200ml fruit squash, 800ml water and a pinch of salt.
Milk: Skimmed or semi-skimmed milk has been shown as an excellent post-exercise recovery drink. It naturally contains vitamins and minerals that can replace those lost via sweating and enhance rehydration (sodium), as well as assisting in muscle function and bone health (potassium and calcium). It also naturally contains high quality protein and some carbohydrates, and is relatively cheap to buy.
Energy drinks: Many people think sports drinks and energy drinks are the same, but it is important to note that they are very different. Energy drinks typically contain high levels of caffeine and sugars. They are not designed to replace the electrolytes lost in sweat and may contain other ingredients with stimulant properties. If consumed in excess, energy drinks can lead to severe health problems such as heart problems (cardiac rhythmic disturbances) and caffeine intoxication. As some are high in sugars, they can increase the risk of tooth decay especially in those with poor dental hygiene and could encourage high calorie intakes, which may cause weight gain. Energy drinks should not be consumed in place of sports drinks during exercise.
Should I take vitamin or mineral supplements?
Consumption of a healthy, varied, nutrient-rich diet, which contains plenty of fruits, vegetables, starchy foods, some lean protein foods and some low fat dairy foods, should provide all the vitamins and minerals that most physically active individuals require.
There is little evidence to suggest that vitamin and mineral supplements, if you are consuming a healthy, balanced diet, can improve performance.
Similarly, poor food choices cannot be compensated for by taking supplements. Supplements can be expensive and in very high doses can actually be harmful.
However, supplements may be necessary for certain population groups. For example, vitamin D is mostly obtained through action of sunlight on our skin in the summer months, and there are few rich food sources, so some at risk groups such as children under five years, pregnant and breastfeeding women and adults over the age of 65 are recommended to take a supplement.
Always consult your GP or a dietitian if you are concerned about a nutrient deficiency.