Monday, October 12, 2009

Proper Nutrition for Active Individuals (part 2)

A few days ago, I spoke about the importance of a healthy diet for active individuals. I went into why nutrition is important to optimize your fitness level. Without the right source of fuel, you will never be at your best! I also covered how protein and fat plays a role in nutrition. Read on for the rest of the information.


Carbohydrates are your body’s CHIEF source of fuel. They are NOT evil!!! You cannot burn fat without it, but you need the right types of carbs. Your body stores excess carbohydrates as glycogen — primarily in your muscles and liver. Your muscles use stored glycogen when needed for energy. It’s the first form of energy expended during activity.

There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple are found in fresh fruit, soda, candy and cookies. With the exception of fresh fruit, it is best to avoid these sugary foods before exercise because high sugar foods lead to feelings of fatigue and heaviness. Complex carbohydrates are high in fiber and are found in foods such as brown rice, beans, lentils, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, etc, and are the preferred carbohydrate foods for health, performance, steady blood sugar levels, and reducing bodyfat levels.
Stay away from highly processed foods such as pasta, bread and white rice which are totally inadequate in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

You'll feel better when you exercise if you eat foods high in carbohydrates and low in fat. A diet containing at least 50 percent of calories from carbohydrates allows your body to store glycogen, but if you exercise for long periods of time, you might want to consume more carbohydrates regularly and consider carbohydrate loading before a big athletic event.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins are used by cells in small amounts to perform metabolic functions. Minerals are chemicals necessary to promote activities like nerve tissue function and muscle contraction. Vitamin and mineral requirements also vary from person to person.

A properly balanced diet provides all of the vitamins and minerals necessary for the average person. Otherwise, you can take a good active multivitamin such as the GNC Active brand for men and women or Source of Life Liquid multivitamin by Nature’s Path. The more you exercise, the more your body is depleted of nutrients!


Water is used to transport nutrients and waste products in the body. It is also necessary for metabolism and temperature regulation. An inadequate supply of water, called dehydration, slows body function and severely impairs performance.
As you exercise, your body produces heat. This heat leaves your body as you perspire, taking with it electrolytes — elements, such as potassium, calcium, sodium and chloride. If you don't replace the fluid you lose during exercise, your heart rate increases and your temperature rises, putting you at risk of dehydration as well as compromising your workout.

The human body is fifty-five to sixty percent water and some of that water is lost through sweat during exercise. Drink plenty of fluids during and after exercise, at least eight glasses a day. Do not wait until you feel thirsty to begin replenishing fluids.

Adequate diet

An adequate diet comes from eating a variety of foods from the four food groups. The average daily caloric requirement for adults is twenty-seven hundred calories for men and twenty-one hundred calories for women. Athletes will require more calories depending on the intensity and frequency with which they exercise. When planning your training diet be sure to include the following every day:

Milk/milk products 2-3 servings
Meat/High protein 2-3 servings
Vegetables/Fruit 7-10 servings
Cereal/Grains 6-10 servings

Pre-exercise meal

Before an important event or strenuous practice, eat a light low-fat, low-sugar, low-protein, high carbohydrate meal and allow two to three hours for digestion.

Diet and endurance

The type of fuel necessary for your activities depends on the intensity and duration of the activity in which you participate. During continuous, moderate activity, energy is provided mainly by the body's fat and carbohydrate stores. If activity becomes more strenuous and glycogen stores in the liver are depleted, a greater percentage of energy is derived from the breakdown of fat.

Although low levels of glycogen lead to fatigue, the fatigue occurs only in the muscles that are active. Inactive muscles retain their glycogen supply. Drinking a solution of glucose in water, commonly found in sports drinks, can prolong exercise for a short time, but energy production becomes severely limited.

Repeated periods of strenuous training can bring on fatigue due to the gradual depletion of the body's carbohydrate stories, making exercise more and more difficult. After prolonged or strenuous exercise, allow at least forty-eight hours and ensure sufficient carbohydrate intake to restore glycogen in the muscles to preexercise levels.

Eat a healthy breakfast. Most of the energy you got from dinner last night is used up by morning. Your blood sugar may be low. Start your day off right! It’s no mystery you will be tired later on in the day while training if you didn’t eat enough during the day to begin with!

Time your meals based on their size. Eat large meals at least three to four hours before exercising. You can eat small meal two to three hours before exercising. Most people can eat snacks right before and during exercise. The key is how you feel. Do what works best for you.

Don't skip meals. Skipping meals may cause low blood sugar, which can make you feel weak and lightheaded. If you're short on time before your workout, grab a protein bar with carbs, greek yogurt and a banana, or brown rice cakes with peanut/almond butter. For some people, eating something less than an hour before exercise can cause low blood sugar. Find out what works for you.

Eat after your workout to help your muscles recover and to replace their glycogen stores. Eat a meal that contains both protein and carbohydrates within two hours of your exercise session if possible.

Foods high in fiber and fructose right before an intense workout may cause problems. High-fiber foods, such as beans and lentils, bran cereals and fruit, may give you gas or cause cramping. Fructose, a simple sugar found in fruit, can increase the tendency for diarrhea with high-intensity exercise.

Consider beverage sources if you don't like to eat solid foods before exercising. You can drink your carbohydrates in sports beverages or fruit juices. Do what feels best to you.

Let experience be your guide

When it comes to eating and exercise, everyone is different. So pay attention to how you feel during your workout and your overall performance. Let your experience guide you on which pre-and post-exercise eating habits work best for you.

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