eatingforexercise

Eating for exercise

Keeping active is extremely important for good health. Not only does it reduce the risk of health problems such as heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis and dementia; it is also known to boost self-esteem, mood and energy levels, and help us sleep better.

Keeping active is extremely important for good health. Not only does it reduce the risk of health problems such as heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis and dementia; it is also known to boost self-esteem, mood and energy levels, and help us sleep better.

Previous generations led more active lifestyles, but modern-day technology has made it much easier to move less. We now have to think of ways to integrate exercise and movement into our everyday lives.

How much exercise do we need?


Adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise each week, as well as muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice a week. Exercise levels vary for other age groups.

What counts?


  • Moderate aerobic activity raises the heart rate and increases breathing. Examples of this include walking at a fast pace or riding a bike.
  • Vigorous aerobic activity means that we’re breathing hard and fast, and our heart rate has increased substantially. Examples of this include running or playing football.
  • Muscle-strengthening exercises include weight lifting, push-ups and sit-ups. Some activities, such as circuit training or playing rugby, can count as both vigorous aerobic activity and muscle strengthening.

It’s always wise to speak to a health professional for advice before starting a new exercise routine, especially if there are any concerns or existing health conditions.

Eating for exercise

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.

Carbohydrates


Carbs are the main source of energy for our body during exercise, and can be split into two categories – simple and complex. 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


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.

Protein


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.

Calcium


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.