Training and diet
Sports nutrition is big business. Fortunately, most of us don't need to shell out a fortune on expensive products to be in good health.
If you're exercising, you're going to be using up more calories than usual. While some people welcome a little weight loss, you'll have to fuel up eventually or you'll waste away. Your body can use fat, protein, or carbohydrate to gain energy. It depends on the type of exercise you do, but generally starchy foods are a good way to get slow-release energy, and if you just need an occasional quick boost then sweet or sugary food can help. "A high-carbohydrate snack 30-60 minutes before exercise, such as a jam sandwich, banana or sports drink, is generally found to be beneficial," says Dr Sam Stear, author of Fuelling Fitness for Sports Performance. "David Beckham keeps jelly babies in his pocket and Madonna likes to fuel her dance routines with a slice of toast and strawberry jam."
Protein is needed to build and repair muscles and for hundreds of other structures, enzymes and so on around the body. It's healthiest in lean forms (such as skinless chicken or many vegetarian foods), or as fish (white or oily). Increasing your exercise levels slightly will not increase your need for protein; it's only needed when you're training very hard - say an hour each day at high intensity. Long distance runners or weight lifters may need double the usual amount.
Vitamins, minerals, and more
Even if you're eating more starchy food, don't forget to include lots of fruit and veg in your diet. It's the best way to get your vitamins and minerals, all in the forms that the body can absorb most efficiently. If you do want to take commercial preparations, a good multivitamin and mineral supplement will be enough for most people. Many sport supplements are a waste of money, and most professional sportspeople don't need them, no matter how much exercise they do. If you're not eating regular meals or are dieting, you may well need extra nutrients.
Getting all hot and sweaty makes your lose water and salts, so take a water bottle into the gym and sip away at it. During moderate exercise, an average person loses 500ml of water every 30 minutes. "You need to drink about 1.2 litres of fluid for every kilogram of body weight lost during exercise, so remember to weigh yourself before and after you exercise," say Dr Sam Stear. Remember that you need more in hot weather too. Drinks containing caffeine or lots of sugar can have a dehydrating effect on the body, so avoid them when you're exercising. Stick to water, diluted fruit juice, or isotonic sports drinks.
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