Fuelling an active lifestyle

One way many people have been getting through the tough lockdown measures required to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus is with regular exercise. Even with the stage four lockdown restrictions in Melbourne, many people have been making the most of their allowed one to two hours of outdoor exercise each day.

So, as such activity increases, how do we make sure we’re fuelling correctly? As some states and territories return to ‘CovidSafe’ sporting events such as fun runs, how do we fuel to ensure optimal performance?

Get the basics right

According to Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Sports Dietitian Christie Johnson from SportsDietitian.com, there are “a few things we need to be mindful of when eating well for an active lifestyle”.

The first step is getting the basics right.

“Fuelling for activity will be slightly different for everyone,” she says.

“But for most people, if they start off with regular eating … they’ll give their body the nutrients they need, and the energy.

“We need a good balance of quality carbohydrates (grainy foods, fruit and vegetables), quality protein (lean meats, eggs, fish, beans, lentils, tofu) and lots of colour – so, veggies, salad and fruit.

“If you can include these foods in your main meals then you’re off to a great start.

“Eating quality food, particularly protein and fibre from carbohydrates, across the day helps keep you fuller for longer, may reduce afternoon or night-time cravings and helps build lean muscle.”

When starting to increase exercise or activity, or if you’ve signed up for a fun run or other sporting event with extra training required, Ms Johnson says the key is energy balance, which involves eating enough to meet extra requirements.

She adds that this can be achieved by “adding a little more to meals or having a few snacks between meals”.

“Eating around training with a little snack before, and a meal or snack after, is also important if you’re exercising for more than 30 minutes at a moderate or high intensity, regularly,” says Ms Johnson.

Good snack options she suggests are yoghurt and muesli/nuts/fruit; nut butter on grain toast; fruit and nuts/nut bar; and cheese on crackers.

For those who have increased their endurance training or high intensity exercise, “eating a small carbohydrate-rich snack beforehand can be helpful for fuelling well and getting the most out of the session”, she says.

Clearly, the last thing you want to do is run out of steam midway through your session.

Ms Johnson says examples of carbohydrate snacks suitable for before exercise include “a slice of grain toast with nut butter, a piece of fruit, a milky dink, or some oats”.

She also suggests “a meal a few hours before” to fuel a scheduled training session.

After training, it’s all about recovery, and this is where, according to Ms Johnson, “planning ahead is really helpful”.

“So, if you’re coming back from activity and going straight into work from home, and into meetings, have something you can grab with good protein to eat soon after,” she says.

“This not only helps recovery but also reduces the cravings you’re likely to get if you don’t eat for the next few hours.

“I like having foods to grab, such as nut bars, milk, Greek or [other] high-protein yoghurt, occasionally a protein shake, boiled eggs, or frittata-style meals you can pull out from the freezer.”

Stay hydrated  

Staying well hydrated has many functions and has a positive effect on exercise performance, according to Ms Johnson.

She says adequate hydration helps to regulate sweating and body temperature during activity and exercise, supports blood flow to muscles and aids concentration.

“If you drink water regularly throughout the day and around your activity (before, during and afterwards) and eat hydrating foods like salad veggies, berries, watermelon, milk and yoghurt, then you most likely are staying well hydrated,” she says.

“If you struggle to drink water throughout the day or sweat a lot during exercise … then electrolytes can be helpful. These are particularly helpful when adjusting to increased sweating as the temperature warms up.

“Sipping on electrolytes during exercise over 60 to 90 minutes and having some after exercise in your recovery, can help.

“Just be mindful if [the electrolyte drinks] contain carbohydrates, as that will add to your energy intake for the day.”

To read the full feature as it appears in this month’s issue of Retail Pharmacy Assistants magazine, visit: rpassistants.com.au/magazines/retail-pharmacy-assistants-october-2020