Nutrition and Hydration Week has its roots in the health and social care sector, an area where a lot of our work at Sunshine Gym is based. The team at this event are now spreading their focus more broadly so, to coincide with this, we’re sharing our top tips 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! For example it can put your health at risk if you put too much pressure on exercise without sufficient nutrition, or if you focus on eating healthily but drink too much sugary fruit juice. Remember, never focus on restricting yourself – your body needs nourishing and you have to replenish its resources.
Staying hydrated is not only important for satisfying thirst, but also for dissolving substances, regulating body temperature, and 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. According to the NHS, dehydration can happen more easily if you’re out in the sun or if you have a high temperature, so make sure you stay safe if you’re using Sunshine Gym equipment.
How to eat and drink properly when you’re active
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 of the best advice we could find. Rather than switching through fads and following wellness trends, we recommend reading up on UK government guidelines. Of course, the most important thing is to listen to guidance from medical professionals and to, quite literally, follow your gut! So if you’re thinking of exercising using Sunshine gym equipment, read our top tips on food, drink, and exercise.
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, and following up with potatoes, or 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The recovery period is the time when you really need to listen to what your body is telling you. Exercise should leave you feeling invigorated and, if you are a little weary, this shouldn’t last long. Feeling sick or shaky could be a sign you have pushed yourself too hard and that you need to rein it in a bit next time! If you find that your recovery continues to be slow then consider adjusting your diet to include more carbohydrates throughout the day.
If you are dizzy, lightheaded, or intensely tired you may be dehydrated. These 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.
If you don’t plan to have another exercise session that day then it’s best to rehydrate with plenty of fluid and refuel with a main meal containing both protein and carbohydrates. This is because post-workout protein is thought to help the muscle repair process after exerting yourself.
If you don’t have a long recovery time before your next workout, 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 Sunshine Gym
If you want to boost your muscles with more vigorous exercise, try the Rower, the Horse Rider, and the Double Squat Push. This is the sort of exercise where you may want to consider taking sports drinks, but alternative snacks are also sufficient.
Protein is known to be an important aspect of muscle growth so make sure you are including protein in your diet through dairy products, fish, beans and pulses, tofu, eggs, or lean meat. However carbohydrates and fats are also needed for muscles, so don’t neglect them! As with other aspects of exercise and diet, balance is key – you should already have enough protein if you follow healthy nutrition advice and include some extra exercise snacks.
If your aim is to improve your stamina and overall health then it’s best to concentrate on cardiovascular and endurance exercise. At Sunshine Gym 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. Regardless of the other types of exercise you are doing, your cardiovascular health should always be a main focus.
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. If we’ve got you thinking about your own food and drink habits, find out how to get involved with the campaign on the Nutrition and Hydration Week website.