Active Nutrition- How to be your healthy best

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Many of you would have experienced an increase in appetite when you are more physically active...but what does this mean? Is it simply our body telling us that we need to increase our energy intake to match our additional energy expenditure? If so, what is the best fuel for active bodies...?

Our 50-Day Winter Challenge participants and our City to Surf RunFit team have been committing to extra exercise sessions to increase their fitness and endurance levels over the next couple months. Whilst this is a great way to boost their health and fitness and get the energy flowing through their body- it is vital that they do not overlook the importance of nutrition within their 'ramped up' training program. Training for any event or outcome takes planning and perseverance, especially if you are pushing your physical boundaries. An increased training load not only puts your body under extra stress but also amps up your nutritional requirements.

Over the next few weeks, with the assistance of the Healthy Chef we will give you the nutritional tools to assist you to achieve peak performance – Including how to:

Nourish and fuel your body during training
Choose the best pre-training snacks
Hydrate effectively
Assist your post training recovery


Eating a nourishing diet will help you to:

Meet your nutrition and energy requirements
Promote recovery and tissue growth and repair
Prime your body for optimal health during your fitness training
Improve endurance performance
Reduce or delay fatigue during training and events

As recommended by the Healthy Chef, Teresa Cutter- 'a healthy meal should be made up of quality carbohydrate, protein and healthy unsaturated fats.'

CARBOHYDRATES – (primary source of energy)
LEAN PROTEIN – (growth, repair of lean muscle, immune health)
HEALTHY FAT - (vitamin absorption, immune health, fuel source)

Carbs are the preferred energy source for the body as they will satisfy energy needs and support muscle recovery afterwards. We store small amounts in our liver and muscles as glycogen, which our liver breaks down into glucose during exercise and releases into the bloodstream for energy. The muscles and brain use this glucose, as well as their own residual glycogen supplies, to fuel their work. When our glycogen stores are depleted we become fatigued, making it harder to sustain higher intensities. Blood sugar levels may drop, compounding fatigue and leaving you feeling pretty awful – anyone who has ‘hit the wall’ would agree. Adequate carbohydrate intake is very important and will determine how much glycogen is stored ready for use during training. The amount of carbohydrate you need depends on your activity level and duration of your training sessions and what is important is the quality of the carbohydrate that is eaten. Natural wholefood and unprocessed sources are best such as vegetables, fruits, oats, beans etc.

Whenever the body is growing, repairing or replacing tissue, proteins are involved. They are found in your skin, bones, muscle and all your organ tissue. The body prefers to reserve its protein stores for functional purposes rather than breaking them down to use as energy. Training for an endurance event increases your protein requirements, as your body is continually repairing and adapting in response to each session. Adequate protein intake is very important to keep up with these changes and ensure that protein synthesis is supported for quick recovery and optimal performance. Your protein requirements will depend on many factors including gender, size, muscle mass, activity level and training intensity. Check out the Healthy Chef protein calculator here to work out your individual daily requirement as well as the best sources of protein.

Fat’s are essential for digestion, vitamin absorption, hormone production and immune health. Fat is the other primary fuel for working muscles during exercise. Fats are the building blocks for cell walls and hormones, transporters of vitamins A, D, E, K and essential for bone and immune health. Inadequate fat stores and intake can lead to major health complications. My favourites are the Mediterranean style mono-unsaturated (oleic) oils and omega 3 oils which are anti-inflammatory to the body and can help the fight against diabetes, cardiovascular disease, help lower cholesterol, reduce high blood pressure, nourish the immune system and reduce symptoms of arthritis and depression. Studies show that these healthy fats are associated with a longer healthy life. Top of my list are cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, macadamia nuts, avocado, flaxseeds, walnuts and almonds.


Think of your body as a high performance Formula 1 car with a finely tuned engine; premium fuel is needed for optimal performance! During training, you want to give your body the best quality fuel possible. Include a variety of delicious wholefoods to ensure you are getting the full nutrient potential of each meal and snack.

Your diet should be jam-packed full of colourful vegetables and fruits; the more colour, the more anti-oxidants! Natural antioxidants are really important during periods of increased physical activity, as your cells are exposed to greater levels of oxidative stress. Fill up at least half your plate with colourful salads or vegetables at meal times and munch away on fresh fruit in between if you’re hungry.

Aim to have 3 regular meals and adjust snacks around your activity levels for the day. If you do a long or really intense training session one day, your energy requirements will be higher than on days with much lighter sessions. To bump up your intake on more strenuous days, keep your main meal sizes the same and add in a couple of extra nourishing snacks (including post workout). This will help you to meet your energy needs and also counteract any dramatic increases in appetite, which can lead to overeating and weight gain for some. Be mindful of your appetite and listen to your body.

Like any great performance, planning and preparation is the key to healthy nutrition.

I would like to acknowledge the Healthy Chef, Teresa Cutter for providing some of the nutritional guidelines in this post.

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