Food and eating habits provide a gateway to health, connecting the physical, emotional and mental. The nutrition your body has access to will provide the fuel needed to enhance peak performance physically, emotionally and mentally. Whether you’re a professional athlete or embarking on a new years’ exercise regime, how you fuel your body can impact your ability to achieve the goals you’ve set. Whether it’s winning an event or simply wanting to lose weight, whether your activity of choice is based on strength or endurance, ultimately your performance stems from your nutritional and hydration status.

For those embarking on a general wellness exercise regime – firstly if you’ve maintained a new program since New Year’s –congratulations! To sustain a well-balanced exercise program, 3 key areas to consider are fuel (nutrition), hydration and recovery. After all you wouldn’t expect your car to effectively drive you around without fuel, water or a service. ..

If you are taking part in longer endurance exercise (>90mins), a combination of complex carbohydrates and protein is required the day before.  Examples include lasagne, tuna bake, spaghetti bolognese, baked beans on toast or lentils and rice. If you are exercising for less than an hour and want to enhance fat loss, dinner choices are better comprised of a palm size of lean protein and 3 handfuls of salad or vegetables as the carbohydrate source. Minimising bread, pasta, rice and potato at dinner can reduce glycaemic load and encourage more effective fat metabolism. Recent research is suggesting that 3 serves of dairy (organic natural yoghurt and milk in particular for whey protein) may improve metabolic parameters including insulin sensitivity, so if dairy is well tolerated, it’s important to include in the diet.

During exercise, muscles generate a lot of heat. Perspiration (water and electrolytes) occurs to cool the body down. Dehydration makes it more difficult to exercise as the body’s innate cooling mechanism is unable to function effectively and this can lead to increased heart rate, fatigue, headaches and muscle cramping to name a few potential problems. If exercise is longer than 1 hour, electrolytes may need to be added to water for adequate hydration, especially in warmer weather. 100-200ml of water may need to be consumed every 15mins during endurance training. Check urine colour and the darker yellow the colour, the more fluid is required. If you perspire a lot during exercise, even more fluid replacement may be required.

During training if you feel ‘heavy legs’, experience cramping, headaches, muscle twitching or poor recovery, there may be nutrient deficiencies present contributing to these symptoms. Protein, iron and magnesium deficiencies are common in athletes and can be rectified easily by your health practitioner. Poor recovery is often due to dehydration, inadequate dietary intake of protein leading to increased muscle loss and fatigue or suboptimal magnesium levels. Bio-impedance testing can determine if your dietary protein intake is adequate for exercise output. 

Many patients embarking on wellness programs find achieving goals easier when they are accountable. Whether it’s regular appointments to a health practitioner who can check in and support them with their goals, a friend they begin training with or simply checking in with their own goals regularly, accountability can provide extra motivation and determine the long term success of a healthy lifestyle.

Following is a summary of tips to follow on a daily and weekly basis:

Daily planWeekly plan
Drink 2L of H2O  Have minimum 4 alcohol free nights
8 hrs sleep4-6 exercise sessions of min 30mins (aim for set days)
3 main meals & 2 snacks (no skipping meals)1 training free (rest) day
Your palm size/depth protein and 3 handfuls of vegetables/salad at lunch/dinnerI day of less strict eating plan
Include protein in snacks (unsalted nuts & seeds, chic nuts, 3 bean mix, yoghurt, boiled egg)Accountability – check in with your goals
Fresh air and sunshine 
To enhance fat loss, eliminate carbs such as pasta, bread, potato, rice at dinner time 

Elite athletes and serious exercisers have other considerations such as peaking at the correct time in their chosen event or season. This means not only physically, emotionally and mentally do they need to be at their strongest and fittest at a particular time, they need to make sure they know what to do to get their body to peak during a particular event or season, and ensure their immune function is strong at the right time. This can be quite specific according to age, individual health, strength vs endurance training and best results are achieved with an in depth consultation and bio-impedance cellular analysis with a health practitioner.

Eat the energy you want to become…in your exercise program and in your life.