For those of us who are very active – whether due to job or just by choice things change. nutrition and eating has to change as our bodies start to work in a different way. Usually this is as simple as following our intuition but for many people who are into health and fitness this intuition is spoiled by bouncing from theory to theory over how and what to eat.
If you are doing lots of sports, cycling to and from work, have an active job or whatever it is that increases activity levels it is key first and foremost to eat more. And eat more calorie dense food. The alternative is to seriously slow down your metabolism and impact your hormonal health through calorie restriction caused by over exercising and under eating - ultimately eating away muscle, making you feel sluggish and maybe even weight gain.
When you exercise lots it is not only the immediate effect of the calories you are burning that you need to take into account but also the after burn, and hormonal impact that extra activity causes – making the body almost machine like in its ability to churn through food.
Here are some practical tips that can help you figure out how to improve your nutrition when more active than normal.
How much more you need to eat. Technically this should take care of itself, but due to many factors it is sometimes hard to listen to appetite. I find it is a good idea to eat three main meals a day – and at each one keep eating until your body actually tells you it is full. This means a sensation of fullness at the top of your stomach and literally not wanting to have another bite. Not to say you should stuff your face but learn to listen to your bodies signals of saying ‘I’m Full!’.
Focus on Starchy Unrefined Carbohydrates and Fruit. When active the body needs glucose. Your muscles are like sponges waiting to soak up all those starchy roots and grains. As always try to stick mainly to a philosophy of unrefined carbs (roots, rice, beans, lentils, whole-grains etc) this will not only give your body what it needs to recover but also give you a feeling of fullness as Insulin levels rise and trigger satiety.
Easy to Digest Food. Think well cooked and easy to assimilate foods – good examples are oatmeal with lots of fruit and made with milk. Pizza is good after a hard exercise session. The truth is that sometimes eating too clean when being very active just isn’t enough – maintain flexibility with your diet and allow yourself less clean foods. Food is life and without enough calories, especially well assimilated calories you won’t recover or feel your best.
Smoothies are also a good idea after exercise – make them simple think bananas or dates/figs, oats, milk and berries.
Snack Well. When hungry between meals don’t go for any junk – try to keep your desk, bag or kitchen stocked with healthy snacks. Fresh Fruit, Yoghurt, Cottage Cheese, Whole Grain Crackers, Wholesome Granola Bars. Also drink enough water….Always follow hunger, even if you are hungry just after eating. EAT AGAIN. Sometimes after lots of activity hunger seems to go beyond what is normal. As in even after eating what seems a substantial meal there is still an empty void or a nagging hunger. This is quite normal – just follow your appetite and eat some more. Try and feel out for what your body wants and eat what you crave.
When exercising or being especially active it is important first and foremost to eat more. This can be in the way of bigger meals or eating more often – whatever suits you. Remember that our bodies are smart and will normally guide us, really being in tune and listening to the signals is hard though. Just be sure to eat enough if you are being especially active – this will make your body strong and robust rather than weak and frail.
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