Consuming the correct amount of carbohydrate and fluid before, during and after exercise can greatly enhance your results. The carbohydrate and fluid stores in your body are naturally limited and are challenged during activity, so it’s important to ensure that they are as full as possible prior to a workout, especially at the beginning of the day.
If you don’t have enough fuel in your body for the day ahead, it becomes hard to lose weight. This is because your body will tend to use your muscles for energy, which in turn makes it more difficult to lose fat mass.
Using muscles demands energy and your body will look first to stored carbohydrates, prior to burning fat stores. The lesson here is not to diet and be active, because you will make it more difficult for your body to get better at burning fat!
- Between 35% and 55% of your plate should be carbohydrate
- Between 30% and 40% of your plate should be fruit and vegetables
- Between 10% and 15% of your plate should be protein
- Between 05% and 10% of your plate should be fat
Activity and energy
Ideally, you should eat a high-carbohydrate meal 3-4 hours before exercising. If this isn’t possible then remember that ‘something is always better than nothing’ and grab a quick bowl of cereal, packet of rice cakes or a sports drink.
We recommend carbohydrates that are easy to incorporate into your daily diet, so choose brown rice, potatoes and brown, seeded bread. The best cereal by far is porridge; if you add fruit to this you not only improve the taste but also provide essential fruit sugars and vitamins.
- Choose carbs that release energy slowly so your body benefits from a steady release throughout the day, e.g. porridge, brown bread, rice and pasta.
- If you dramatically reduce your intake of carbs and then exercise you can expect to feel tired more quickly, struggle to complete today’s activity and struggle even more tomorrow!
Breakfast is vital for good health and you should make time to eat earlier in the day, thus consuming most of your calories before mid-afternoon – this enables your body to use that energy throughout the day. Preparation is key: cook a little extra pasta or rice one night, then add corn, fish or vegetables to the surplus to use as a snack the next day.
- Carbohydrate is the preferred fuel for muscles and is the fastest source of energy. Protein is also crucial for health and wellbeing.
- Eating carbohydrates leads to the release of serotonin, which is a ‘feel-good’ hormone and results in an improved mood state.
- High protein diets increase the workload placed on kidneys, which already involves the filtration of some 200 litres of fluid per day!
- Most bags of crisps contain 12g of fat. Try to avoid them and choose healthy alternatives like rice cakes.
A Health Tip from Mark Foster