Thursday, October 8, 2009

Proper Nutrition for Active Individuals

You run, bike, strength train, take bootcamp and perhaps participate in other activities several times a week. Some days you have a lot of energy while other days you feel exhausted. By the end of the week, you’re ready to pass out. Aside from rest and recovery, are you fueling yourself properly? Is a balanced diet part of your regimen?

Proper nutrition keeps you healthy and helps improve your fitness level. Regardless of skill level, you can become a little faster, stronger, able to resist and repair from injuries and train better!
The need for speed, agility, strength, flexibility and the ability to recuperate from tough workouts is paramount to the success of your program! Your body requires more nutrients than the average individual since you are working harder during exercise. Thus you are burning more calories and use up energy supplies faster.

Here are some important facts you should know:

Proper nutrition helps to avoid illness. Eating properly ensures you have a good balance of vitamins and minerals to fight off sickness.

Diet plays an important role in recovery. When you train hard, your body breaks down and you need to be able to rebuild it.

A good diet helps you manage your weight

Good nutrition improves performance level. If you have the right fuel in you, then you can train more intensely and work harder. Train hard and eat to stay fit. In order to reach top physical condition, increase speed and endurance, improve dexterity and flexibility, and sharpen your mind, it is essential to fill your body with the right balance of nutrients.

Today, sports nutrition has developed into a science and is responsible for the increasing number of athletes pushing their performance towards excellence. This is the same for martial artists. Training intensely requires good nutrition along with fitness in order to be at the top of your game!

Carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants all play an important in helping you achieve maximum performance. Proper intake of these not only betters energy, they can sharpen minds too. Fibrous carbohydrate sources like vegetables, lentils and brown rice to name a few aids performance and reduces body weight.

Just because you run, bike, strength train, play sport, etc. doesn’t mean you can grab fast food or eat like garbage! One's nutrition can affect their overall health and performance in many ways, so it makes sense to eat as healthy as possible.

When you eat and what you eat can affect your exercise performance and the way you feel while you're exercising. Coordinate your meals, snacks and what you drink to make the most of your exercise routine.

Time it right: Before, during and after your workout

Eating too much before exercising can make you feel sluggish or have an upset stomach, cramping and diarrhea. That's because your muscles and your digestive system are competing with each other for energy resources. But, not eating before you exercise can be just as bad! Low blood sugar levels that result from not eating can make you feel weak, faint or tired, and your mental abilities may be affected as well, making you slower to react. (oh-oh…did you feel nauseous before bootcamp or drag yourself through your workouts?)

Nutrition 101


Proteins are made up of amino acids, build and repair muscle growth. They are an essential part of virtually every function in our body from the muscles, to certain hormones, to our immune system(s) and more. In particular, the amino acids known as the "branched chain" amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) and the amino acid L-glutamine are of particular interest to active people as they are anti-catabolic (muscle sparing) and immune enhancing, to name only a few functions and benefits of these particular amino acids.

The majority of athletes and/or highly active people will benefit from higher intakes of high quality proteins. Proteins with the highest biological value (BV) are the proteins that should constitute the majority of the active person's diet, as they are superior for maintaining positive nitrogen balance, reducing recuperation time from workouts, and improving immune function. Whey protein concentrate and isolates have the highest BV of any protein and are approximately 50% branched chain amino acids, and high in L-glutamine. These are found in whey protein powders and bars.

There are two types of protein: animal protein and vegetable protein. Animal protein is found in foods like eggs, lean meat, milk and cheese. Vegetable protein is found in foods like wheat, rye, and green vegetables. Other sources are soy products, cottage cheese, greek yogurt, beans, nuts, almond and peanut butter.

For a person who is active, has a busy job, and probably does some weight lifting and/or aerobics, an intake of .7 - .8 grams of protein per pound of lean body weight is generally recommended. For high level bodybuilders and competitive distance athletes, the protein intake will be higher, approximately 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight being the most common.

Protein should make up ten to fifteen percent of your daily calories. Choose high protein foods carefully, because high protein often equals high fat. Stay away from low grade and preservative loaded luncheon meats such as hot dogs, etc.


Fats provide energy to muscles during prolonged periods of exercise. Your body primarily relies on carbohydrates as the top choice of fuel. As exercise intensifies or continues, especially beyond one hour, fats become increasingly important sources of energy. You should not eat fatty foods before exercising. Fats require three to five hours of digestion, which reduces the physical capabilities of the body and creates a general feeling of lethargy.

The two fats known to be essential to health are Linoleic acid (LA) which is an Omega-6 fatty acid and Alpha-linolenic acid (LNA) which is an Omega-3 fatty acid. Both of these fats can be found in foods such as flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, hempseed, hempseed oil, pine nuts, pistachio nuts, raw sunflower seeds,pumpkin seeds, olive oil, olives, evening primose oil, black current oil, chicken, cold water fish such as salmon, herring, sardines and trout, fish oil and many others that have not been heavily processed.

The membrane that surrounds every single cell in your body, the sheath around nerves, various hormones, prostaglandins, and countless other parts of the body (especially the brain) depend on the dietary intake of the right fats. The importance of the essential fatty acids for health and performance cannot be understated.

It is true that certain fats, such as, saturated fats, rancid fats, and trans fatty acids (found in margarine, Crisco, and other products) , can cause numerous health problems from heart disease to cancer and insulin resistance, to name only a few issues of a diet high in the wrong types of fat. However, the essential fatty acids (especially the Omega-3 fatty acids) are anti-lipolytic (stop fat storage), anti-catabolic (stop the break down of muscle tissue), increase metabolic rate and beta oxidation (burn calories).

Fat is an important, although smaller, part of your diet. Fats, as well as carbohydrates, can provide fuel for your muscles during exercise. Try to get most of your fat from unsaturated sources such as: Nuts, Fatty fish, Vegetable oils.

Fats, preferably unsaturated, should make up twenty-five percent or less of total daily calories. Avoid fatty foods just before exercising, though. Fats remain in your stomach longer, causing you to feel less comfortable.

Stay tuned this weekend for the rest on Carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.

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