Shake off your parka and lace up your running shoes. It’s spring! Time to get outside and get active.
Basic Training Guidelines
If you have been an accessory on your couch the past few months, the best plan for getting back into shape is to head outside. Squash the urge to be a superhero out of the gate – start slow and work your way up to more vigorous activities. Some people find writing their activities on a calendar can be a helpful way to visualize and control their progressive increase back into being active. New technology, such as apps and accessories, can also help you stay on top of getting back into shape this spring.
The Best Fuel
Nutrition is an integral part of making every body perform at its best. Whether you are an avid gardener, passionate hiker, yoga lover, runner or Crossfit enthusiast, fuelling your body with proper nutrition is important to ensuring you will get the most out of your favourite activities. Active bodies need fuel to perform at their best.
Nutrients Affect How You Feel When You Are Active
Research from the United States Department of Agricultural Research Services found inadequate levels of magnesium in the body increases the body’s need for oxygen during exercise. In the study, people with low levels of magnesium expended more energy to perform exercise and tired easily. Magnesium and calcium are very important for optimal muscle performance and bone strength. These minerals are present in foods like nuts, seeds and beans. They are also available in supplement form, or as part of multivitamins.
Active People Need More Vitamins
Vitamins are important nutrients for active people. B vitamins help create energy for digging, running and lifting. More vitamin C, vitamin E and other antioxidants are needed to prevent damage caused by free radicals that form during physical activity. Fill your plate with fruits and vegetables whose colours span the rainbow to ensure you are eating a diversity of nutrients to keep your body feeling its best. Some people may find supplements (capsules, liquids or powders) help them meet their nutritional needs.
Your Body’s Energy Sources
When we think of energy, carbohydrates come first to mind. When you start a physical activity, your muscles first use carbohydrates (glycogen) stored within them for energy. When the muscles have burned through their stored glycogen, the body breaks down fat and protein to provide energy to the muscles.
How to Have More Energy for Activity
Want more energy? Want to feel prepared and enthusiastic to get active? Reach for fresh whole foods that contain complex carbohydrates (vegetables, fruits, dried fruits, nuts, nut butters, seeds). Complex carbohydrates are healthier choices than simple carbohydrates (crackers, breakfast cereals, muffins) as complex carbohydrates help to control blood sugar and do not cause energy spikes and dips.
Ingredients for Being Active and Getting a Little ‘Buff’
Protein helps muscles rebuild, repair and grow. From a casual stroll down the street with the dog to an all-day hike in the woods, every step you take requires your muscles to contract, pull and move your body. Your muscles need protein to stay strong and healthy. Plus, eating protein makes you feel full longer helping with weight management.
Many of the foods we already know are healthy choices are also sources of protein, such as almonds and chickpeas. Nut butters, fish and tofu are also great sources of protein. Protein powders are also worth considering. Protein powders are not just a quick post-exercise protein-rich drink. Protein powders make a great breakfast – a protein powder-containing fruit smoothie contains a far better nutritional profile than your typical breakfast cereal.
Remember Good Fats
Fats should also be considered an important nutrient for active bodies. Fats are great sources of energy. Plus, good fats, such as omega-3 and -6, can help keep your joints moving smoothly. Omega-3 fatty acids also nourish your skin, which may be helpful as it gets more exposure to the sun and wind while you’re being active outside.
Glug, Glug, Glug
Water has the largest impact on your body’s ability to be active. Are you thirsty? Then your body’s ability to perform is already suffering. Drink water throughout your day, including when being active to avoid the woes of dehydration, such as fatigue and headaches. While being active, try drinking small amounts of water frequently as gulping large amounts can cause digestive distress. And, drink more than you think – researchers have found we do not drink the amount of water that we really need while exercising.
Not getting enough water in? Try drinking something you like the taste of, such as water with a splash of juice or use a natural flavour product – that way you are more likely to drink lots of it.
When to Use a Sports Drink
Have you ever wondered when it is best to use a sports drink? If you are exercising for more than one hour, sports researchers have found your body needs electrolyte replenishment. There are many electrolyte replenishment products available, including powders and ready-to-drink beverages. If you are exercising for two or more hours, sports researchers say your body requires carbohydrate replenishment as well as electrolytes. Check out your local health food stores’ sports nutrition section for products that contain both carbohydrates and electrolytes if you will be exercising for longer durations.
For long haul, intense workouts athletes looking for a quick sugar source could consider sports gels. During exercise, blood sugar is sent to the muscles to sustain them, lowering the amount of sugar available to the brain. This explains that tired or foggy feeling some experience while exercising for long periods, or when doing any exercise without properly eating beforehand.
Refuelling for Recovery
Way to go! You got out and got active. Now that you are back inside, take a minute to refuel so your muscles and bones can recover. Recovered muscles are happier, healthier and better prepared for your next active adventure. According to the Canadian Sports Institute, a large body of scientific evidence, the body needs to eat protein and carbohydrates preferably within 20-30 minutes after exercise to proper recovery.
The sun is out. The frost is gone. Let’s get back outside and enjoy being active this spring. Health Canada encourages adults (18-64 years of age) to be active at least 2.5 hours a week. Being active is part of a healthy lifestyle. Whether you love to garden, walk, run or play…get going! And, remember that an active body has unique nutritional needs.
Source: Lack Energy? Maybe its your magnesium level. Agriculture Research, May 2004. http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/ar/archive/may04/energy0504.htm?pf=1
Lukaski, HC and FH Nielsen. Dietary magnesium depletion affects metabolic responses during submaximal exercise in postmenopausal women. J Nutr 132:930-935, 2002.
Manore, M. Effect of physical activity on thiamine, riboflavin and vitamin B6 requirements. Am J of Clin Nutr 2000 August;72(2):598-606.
Vina, J et al. Free radicals in exhaustive physical exercise: mechanism of production and protection by antioxidants. IUBMB Life 2000 Oct; 50(4-5):271-277.
Dzielska-Olczak M and JZ Nowak. Antiinflammatory therapy in osteoarthritis including omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Pol Merkur Lekarski 2012 May;32(191):329-34.
Canadian Institute of Sport