International Sports Day: Diet and Exercise
We have all faced the dilemma before exercising – should I eat now or wait until after? If now is the right time, what should I eat? In this post, I will share with you my nutrition recommendations before you set off to your next physical activity or participate in the International Sports Day run this Friday. I am always happy to find more and more people infected by healthy habits…
One of the most important things for the body during exercise is having energy reserves available. These ensure the body’s ability to endure prolonged effort on the one hand, and on the other have essential nutrients that build muscles after such activity. Various ingredients have an important effect on our body during exercise (in this post I refer to moderate recreational activities and not competitive ones):
Energy reserves that originate from carbohydrates are stored in the liver and muscles (glycogen). As the body makes an effort, glycogen breaks down to glucose, which is used in muscle activity and maintains the glucose level in the blood. In order to start your physical activity “equipped” with full glycogen reserves, it is important to eat during the day that precedes this activity, but not right before it. Carbohydrate-rich meals such as pasta, rice, potatoes and more are a good choice.
With the slowdown in intensity due to weakness or fatigue, it is advisable to consume available carbohydrates that help supply energy for quick utilization before and during activity. This way, you will have carbohydrates available for muscle activity during the workout. These carbohydrates are found in a variety of fruits such as yogurt with fruit, dates, bananas, energy bars and more.
The carbohydrates consumed just before activity should contain a moderate level of fiber, so as to help the digestive system to rest during the activity. This allows most energy in the body to be channeled toward supporting the effort.
Designated cereal bars contain complex carbohydrates, which derive from grains, and available carbohydrates, which derive from sugars, like fructose and glucose. This combination facilitates immediate glucose support to the body over a relatively long time.
An essential nutrient that is just as important as a carbohydrate is protein. Consumed in the appropriate ratio with carbohydrates, proteins are important for muscle building, particularly after physical activity.
The make-up of some proteins provides more support in muscle building under strain:
• Proteins with high bioavailability in general and branched-chain amino acids in particular – Branched chain amino acids are easily digestible with high bioavailability. They target the muscle directly while contributing to the protection of muscle tissue under strain.
• Carnitine – The main function of this amino acid is to increase utilization of fat for energy production in the cells. Carnitine supplements are effective in improving muscle function under strain.
• Glutamine – This amino acid constitutes approximately 60% of the total amino acid pool in the muscle and increases muscle mass. Under stressful situations, the body does not produce enough glutamine and therefore a glutamine supplement is very important during strenuous physical activity. This supplement offsets its loss in the muscle, eliminates the decrease in muscle protein synthesis and improves nitrogen balance in the muscle.
• Some people argue that a meal at the end of a physical activity (up to two hours after the activity) with carbohydrate-protein ratio of 1 to 3 contributes to optimal muscle building.
Less fat and fiber before exercise
Before a workout, it is very important to eat low fat foods, because fats slow the gastric emptying rate and thus may impair the activity itself and prevent the utilization of carbohydrates, when required.
In addition, it is very important to eat foods that contain a moderate amount of dietary fiber.
In conclusion, the ingredients that will help you before and after physical activity are as follows:
Available carbohydrates that provide immediate energy to the body during or near the time of the activity, and complex carbohydrates that support glycogen reserves.
Proteins with high bioavailability, in general and branched-chain amino acids in particular, that help protect muscle tissue under strain, the amino acid, carnitine, that participates in the utilization of fats as an energy source, and the amino acid, glutamine, which is important for building muscle.
In the coming posts I will talk about vitamins and minerals that support physical activity, the importance of drinking water during such activities and much more.