Your body depends upon the right levels of nutrition, hydration and physical exertion in order to perform at its best. However, with the tangle of information surrounding wellness, fitness and dieting, you might think working at that sweet spot is something of a circus act! That’s why we’re sharing our top advice for healthy food and drink consumption when you exercise.
Should you go on a diet? Is exercise enough?
Exercise, nutrition, and hydration are intrinsically linked. To keep fit and healthy it is vital to keep these aspects of your life balanced – it’s likely to do much more harm than good if you don’t!
Remember, never focus on restricting yourself.
Your body needs nourishing and you must replenish its resources.
Staying hydrated is not only important for satisfying thirst. It’s also vital to the following functions:
- Dissolving substances.
- Regulating body temperature.
- Carrying nutrients.
In fact, every cell reaction in the body requires fluid.
Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluid than you take in, so you need to keep on top of it when you’re losing fluid through sweat. This happens more easily if you’re out in the sun or have a high temperature, so stay safe when you’re enjoying the benefits of outdoor exercise.
Nutrition & Hydration Advice for Exercise and Fitness Fanatics
There’s an extraordinary amount of information out there about what you should and shouldn’t be eating. We’ve done the work for you and put together a guide. Conveniently, our advice can be summarised in three simple steps:
The most important thing is to listen to guidance from UK government guidelines and to, quite literally, follow your gut! (Rather than switching through fads and wellness trends.)
Whether you’re just starting to workout using outdoor gym equipment, or you’re a fitness fan looking to fine-tune your diet, read through our guide to food, drink, and exercise.
How to prepare for exercise
What should you eat?
Make sure your body is ready for exercise by keeping your energy levels high. This means keeping your meals regular and your snacks small but frequent.
The best food type for energy is carbohydrates, so we suggest starting your day with a wholegrain breakfast cereal. You should follow this up with potatoes, wholegrain bread, rice, or pasta at lunch and dinner.
The more exercise you tend to do, the more carbohydrates you should include in your meals, but don’t skimp on the other food groups!
When should you eat?
You should plan your exercise for about three hours after a main meal but make sure you’ve had a light ‘top-up’ snack about one hour before you start. This snack, if it contains protein and carbohydrates, will improve your performance and recovery.
Try a banana or some low-fat cheese on a couple of crackers. As long as it’s easy to digest, and isn’t particularly high-fibre or too fatty, then it should set you up well.
How much should you drink?
Of course, it’s not all about eating well. In addition to the extra fluid you’ll need with exercise, aim for six to eight drinks throughout the day.
Although water is best, if you’re not keen on the taste then you can always try it with lemon or a dash of fruit juice. Unsweetened tea or coffee also count, but the caffeine content may mean you need more fluid to counteract the effects on your gut.
How to sustain yourself during exercise
Do you need exercise snacks?
If your preparation is all in order then it shouldn’t be necessary to have extra snacks during a light, sixty-minute workout. However, water remains crucial as you will lose fluid through sweat when exercising.
You may need to have a snack if you are doing a longer workout or one which is a bit more intense. We would suggest something which will digest fast enough to give you a boost, and something to replenish the salts and minerals – which you will lose through sweating!
Aim for moderation: while high-carbohydrate foods fit the bill, some may feel too heavy for personal comfort.
Do you need sports drinks?
As with your choice of snack, whether or not to opt for a sports drink is down to individual preference.
The purpose of isotonic sports drinks (not to be confused with caffeine-based energy drinks) is to supplement the various nutritional needs which come with a high-intensity workout. A sports drink is not essential but can be handy if you like the pre-made choice.
How to recover after exercise
The extra care you need to take with nutrition and hydration doesn’t end when you finish your workout. Even after you’ve stopped moving there are things you need to do to make sure you recover properly and get the most out of it.
This is when you really need to listen to what your body is telling you:
- Exercise should leave you invigorated – weariness shouldn’t last long.
- You shouldn’t feel sick or shaky – they’re signs you’ve pushed yourself too hard.
- If your recovery is slow then consider eating more carbohydrates throughout the day.
- Dizzy, lightheaded, or intensely tired? You may be dehydrated.
Dehydration symptoms are not ‘just a part of exercise’ so if you experience any of them you must start taking small sips of water and gradually build up to more.
Eating after your last or only workout of the day:
It’s best to rehydrate with plenty of fluid and refuel with a main meal containing both protein and carbohydrates.
Post-workout protein is thought to help the muscle repair process after exerting yourself.
Eating between workouts:
If you don’t have a long recovery time you must refuel quickly and sufficiently.
Try to take in some carbohydrates and protein within an hour of finishing – perhaps drink a glass of milk or a non-dairy alternative and eat some toast with nut butter.
Aim for something which feels substantial but not too rich.
Nutrition, Hydration, and Outdoor Fitness
You should already have enough protein if you follow healthy nutrition advice and include some extra exercise snacks. For muscle growth, include protein in your diet through:
- Dairy products,
- Beans and pulses,
- Lean meat.
However, carbohydrates and fats are also needed for muscles, so don’t neglect them!
Regardless of the other types of exercise you’re doing, your cardiovascular health should always be one of your main areas of focus. For this, we suggest using the Sky Stepper, the Slalom Skier, and the Arm & Pedal Bicycle to give yourself a full-body workout in the open air.
Whatever your fitness level or the type of exercise you choose, we at Sunshine Gym hope you take up nutrition and hydration habits which are best for your mental and physical wellbeing.
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