By Nutra Organics Nutritionist Lisa Baker
Stepping up your fitness regime? Believe it or not, good nutrition is a great place to start. Whatever your fitness goals are, exercise boosts your metabolism. So everything your body needed before, you will now need more of. Simply put, if you want to get more energy out of your body, you’ll need to put more in first.
Not fueling your workouts right, or not giving your body the nutrients it needs between workouts can have some pretty major consequences on your body and wellbeing, not to mention being counterproductive as far as your goals are concerned. Consequences of inadequate nutrition during training can include: reduced performance, muscle cramping, slower recovery between sessions, depletion of essential nutrients that are stored in your body (for example, the depletion of bone minerals), unsatisfactory results from your efforts and even reduced immune function as essential nutrients are used up during exercise, preventing the immune system from working optimally.
So what do you need to do to ensure you are supporting your body for exercise? The main considerations are energy, hydration, electrolyte balance, pH balance, and protein. Sure, it may sound daunting, but it really isn’t as hard as it sounds.
Energy is the most obvious one, so let’s start there. In extreme cases, like marathons or iron mans, energy balance becomes a real precise science, but for most of us, just being mindful of including a little bit more food each day is enough. The energy you use for your workout mostly comes from your blood glucose and glycogen stores, which can be depleted quite quickly. After your workout, it’s great to have a small meal or snack that includes a good balance of simple carbohydrates (to quickly replenish lost energy stores) and complex carbohydrates (for a slower, more sustained energy release). Even if fat loss is part of your fitness goal, constantly running on empty will mean that you won’t get much out of your workouts and you will become tired and lethargic in between sessions. This will ultimately reduce the amount of “incidental” energy you use throughout the day, reducing the quality of your workouts as well as your metabolism.
Next up, hydration! This is always important for the human body to function properly but is particularly important when it comes to exercise, as exercise increases water loss and increases heat in the body (thermogenesis). Humans need to maintain a really stable internal temperature and adequate hydration is essential for temperature regulation. If we become dehydrated we become more prone to heat stress. Dehydration can also cause confusion, muscle cramping, dizzy spells, reduced blood volume, impaired cell signalling and constipation - so make sure you drink that water! A good rule of thumb is to drink a couple of glasses of water half an hour before a workout, sip on water throughout and then have another decent drink once you finish to ensure your fluids stay up!
Electrolyte balance is another really important consideration to go alongside hydration given they are key players in fluid balance as well as muscle contraction and nerve impulses. The main minerals we are talking about when we talk about electrolytes are sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium. Electrolytes are lost during exercise and need to be replenished. A diet containing a variety of fruit and vegetables will already provide a great source of minerals, and there are lots of electrolyte focused products available on the market if you feel you need a little bit more. Our Clean Recovery contains all four of the main electrolytes your body needs - so definitely check it out if you are doing high intensity exercise.
Speaking of minerals, another important function of some minerals (such as magnesium, calcium and potassium) is pH balance within the body. Acid residues in cells are a normal part of metabolism, and this acid formation is increased with exercise. Our cells aren’t able to tolerate much of a variation in pH, so we have a very sensitive inbuilt mechanism to keep the pH stable, and that mechanism utilises minerals. If we haven’t provided our bodies with adequate dietary minerals they are taken directly from our bones and muscles. By consuming a diet high in minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium we can provide our bodies with the pH buffers that they need without resorting to the depletion of our bones and muscles. Foods that support alkalinity in the body are generally your fruits and vegetables.
A good intake of dietary protein is very important for supporting exercise, especially if your goals include increasing strength or muscle mass. Working your muscles creates micro injuries and stimulates protein (muscle) synthesis - however new proteins can’t be synthesised if we don’t have the amino acids available from dietary proteins to build and repair muscle. When we don’t have enough protein in our diets, our body recycles its own protein, taking away from our own tissue for use in more essential areas, which means slow muscle recovery from workouts, depletion of our own tissue and no mass gains! The best dietary sources of protein include meat, dairy, nuts, grains and legumes. Pro tip, if you’re a meat eater and are looking for a convenient way to boost your protein intake to support your fitness, try our Collagen Build - it works absolute wonders! If you follow a plant based diet, a good quality vegan protein powder like the ones in our Clean Active range will be your best friend to support your protein intake and keep you progressing towards your fitness goals.
Now that may sound like a lot to think about but the take home message here is: if you’re drinking plenty of water and eating a healthy varied diet including lots of fruit, vegetables and protein then you are supporting your fitness goals from every angle. At Nutra Organics we always believe in a healthy wholefood diet first, and love providing balanced, holistic functional wholefood blends that compliment your diet. However, if you need a little extra dietary support, our Clean Active range is here to help you along your fitness journey. Our Clean Greens supports pH balance in the body as well as providing electrolytes and nutrients to support immunity. Clean Energy is your ultimate no-nasties pre-workout providing nutrients to support energy, fat metabolism and contains a natural source of caffeine. Our Clean Proteins provide a delicious hit of high quality complete vegan proteins to up your protein intake and support muscle recovery, as well as prebiotics, probiotics and enzymes aid your digestion. Plus, there’s now our newest addition to the clean range, Clean Recovery, which provides a great source of electrolytes, BCAAs, antioxidants, and B vitamins to enhance recovery from your workouts.