Understanding how diet can affect exercise can lead to more productive workouts, giving you an edge while competing and making your recovery time shorter. Your age, weight, physical condition, and the type of exercise also play a part in how to combine foods for the best possible outcome.
One of the most important factors is hydration. On average, about 60 percent of the human body is made up of water, which makes it critical that we stay hydrated throughout the day. Generally, men need about 3L/12-13 glasses per day while women need about 2.2L/9-10 glasses per day. Some of our water needs are met by the foods we eat, such as fruit and other healthy liquids.
We can lose electrolytes through sweating. These precious nutrients have many functions, such as regulating nerve and muscle function, rebuilding damaged tissue, balancing blood acidity and pressure, and hydrating the body. Electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, and phosphate. Drinking liquids full of electrolytes can replenish what we lose through our sweat and allow us to continue with our activities. Bananas, apples, oranges, and celery, or a smoothie with kale, fruit, and coconut water can help boost your electrolytes.
Another factor is the combination of foods that we choose during a workout or sports event. Food is the fuel that gives us our endurance during a long workout. The correct food combination can help to build muscle during weight training or give us a burst of strength when we need to sprint.
Well documented research has shown us that the most efficient fuel for the body during exercise are carbohydrates. Our bodies convert carbohydrates into glycogen, which is burned to produce energy. A good store of carbohydrates benefits endurance and high-intensity intermittent sports. Activities lasting more than an hour also benefit from carbohydrate stores. Good carbohydrate rich foods to choose from are fruits, brown rice, quinoa, oats, barley, whole wheat and whole grain breads, vegetables, beans, lentils, and yams.
Fats and proteins digest slower than carbohydrates and take away much needed oxygen and blood from the muscles. Fats digest even slower than proteins, so avoid a meal loaded in them before, during, or after a workout for optimal energy efficiency. Fats are needed for slower, low intensity exercise and endurance workouts. Healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help to increase HDL cholesterol and decrease LDL cholesterol. Choose foods such as avocados, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, sunflower and flax seeds, and olive oil. Salmon, sardines, and mackerel are proteins that contain healthy fats.
The role protein plays in exercise and sports is important for your muscles. Eating a combination of protein and carbohydrates after a workout can enhance muscle growth, repair muscle breakdown, and maintain the muscle you just built. Lean and organic proteins such as chicken, fish, pork or beef, eggs, or vegetable proteins such as beans, tofu, nuts, and seeds, combined with a vegetable and/or grain will supply a healthy dose of amino acids — the building blocks of proteins. Examining food combinations can make a big difference in reaping the benefits of exercise. Your body will love you and will function at its best when consuming real food instead of processed foods. Please speak to your practitioner to find the best foods for your exercise needs.