Fuel your body the right way

When you’re training you need to provide your body with enough energy to recover between your exercise sessions.

When you’re training on a regular basis, good nutrition is essential – but with diet fads, fashions and fakes taking over our inboxes, news feeds and Google searches, it’s hard to know what to believe when it comes to fuelling your body.

Fortunately the good people at Nutrition Australia have put together a comprehensive sports nutrition list for those looking to “optimise energy levels” for the fastest recovery.

Here’s a glimpse of their top tips for optimal sports nutrition.

Stop cutting important nutrients from diet and start listening to your body. When you’re training you need to provide your body with enough energy to recover between your exercise sessions. According to Nutrition Australia, the three key nutrients that supply your body with energy are carbohydrates, fats and proteins.

“Meals should be based on nutrient-rich carbohydrate foods such as cereals, breads, pasta, rice, fruits, vegetables and legumes,” Nutrition Australia states.

“Milk and yogurt also provide carbohydrate in the form of the milk sugar, lactose.”

Protein helps repair and rebuild muscle after exercise and can also be used during exercise as an energy source, particularly when carbohydrate reserves are very low.

But don’t rely on supplements – the best sources of protein come from animal-based foods such as lean meat, fish, eggs, dairy foods, nuts and seeds.

Once a dirty word, fat is slowly starting to make a come back, as an important part of all balanced diets. And according to Nutrition Australia fat provides the main fuel source for long duration, low to moderate intensity exercise.

“Even during high intensity exercise, where carbohydrate is the main fuel source, fat is needed to help access the stored carbohydrate (glycogen),” Nutrition Australia states.

“You should include moderate amounts of ‘healthy’ fats into your daily diet, such as nuts, seeds, fish, reduced-fat dairy foods, lean meat and avocados.”

Just make sure you approach fat in moderation, with lean meats such as kangaroo and chicken to keep your heart healthy.

When you’re working out for long periods, particularly in our hot Australian climate, you will naturally lose fluid, which is why optimum hydration is so important. According to Nutrition Australia even small amounts of fluid loss can “significantly impair performance” and cause dehydration.

“By the time you feel thirsty your body is already dehydrated,” Nutrition Australia states.

While water is the best way to rehydrate after short periods of exercise Nutrition Australia recommend drinking milk following high intensity training sessions lasting more than an hour.

“A recent study found that drinking milk after exercise may promote rehydration more effectively than water or sports drinks,” Nutrition Australia states.

“The researchers said it was likely that the naturally high electrolyte content of milk helped restore the body’s fluid balance after exercise.”

Micronutrients are a big deal in sports nutrition, and while thinking about broader food groups is important, Nutrition Australia also advise those who are undertaking intensive training to keep a close eye on their intake of two key micronutrients – iron and calcium.

“Iron transports oxygen to all parts of the body, including muscles, and helps release energy from cells,” Nutrition Australia states.

And as training increases red blood cell production, the need for iron is paramount for athletes or those training regularly, particularly among women, vegetarians and children.

According to Nutrition Australia eating iron-rich foods such as lean meats (including chicken, seafood, and kangaroo) – or green leafy vegetables if you’re a vegetarian – is essential for adequate iron intake and a healthy balanced diet.

Calcium consumption is also necessary in developing and maintaining strong bones to “support above-average bone mass”.

“Some female athletes are at high risk of developing osteoporosis prematurely,” Nutrition Australia states.

“Most athletes need three daily serves of dairy foods to help ensure they get enough calcium.”

This may be as simple as a glass of milk, one tub of yogurt and two slices of cheese.

For more information go to: http://nutritionaustralia.org/national/resource/sports-nutrition