Whether you enjoy a cycle around the park at the weekend or are training for a 10k, marathon or triathlon, you should be thinking about what you eat before, during and after exercise.
How we fuel our bodies can have a huge impact on both performance and enjoyment. So before you head out on your next run or cycle, find out exactly what you need to eat alongside a balanced diet to help you hit that new PB.
Carbs are the main source of energy for our body during exercise, and can be split into two categories – simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates can be found in sweets, fruit juice and chocolate; whereas complex carbs tend to be found in pulses, fruit, veg and whole wheat breads and pasta.
Simple carbs are what’s known as ‘empty calories’, as they provide a quick burst of energy but offer very little nutritionally. For longer bouts of exercise reach for those complex carbs – they’re harder for the body to break down and so release energy at a slower, more sustained rate. This can help stop a blood sugar spike after eating, preventing those dips and peaks in energy.
Iron-rich foods such as spinach and lentils can increase the capacity of the blood to carry oxygen, helping to prevent fatigue during exercise. Vitamin C can help the body absorb iron, too – try adding a squeeze of citrus the next time you have some spinach on the go.
Milk, natural yoghurt, cheese and other dairy products are naturally high in calcium, essential for building bone health and strength. It can also help regulate muscle contractions, too. A balanced diet should provide all of the calcium the body needs, but for diets that restrict dairy, it can be difficult to get what you need. Other foods that are high in calcium include tofu and nuts such as almonds, Brazil nuts and hazelnuts.
As well as maintaining and increasing muscle mass, protein is also essential for healthy bones. Try mixing up your intake with protein-packed lentils, beans and fish as well as classic lean meats such as venison and turkey.
For some post-workout fuel inspiration, watch Joe Wicks and Jamie whip-up a delicious homemade shake. Or, for more tips and recipes on nutrition for exercise and beyond, head to our health hub.