Nutrition plays a crucial role in your overall fitness in many ways. The first thing I would say is that one cannot separate nutrition and workout. The two work together synchronously and regardless of your objectives of losing weight, gaining muscles, or staying fit. You will get non-existent results without paying attention to both nutrition and exercise.
In general when we talk about Nutrition; we often miss the importance of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) since we focus more on the macro nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats). It is important that we consume both these in adequate amounts.
Explained is the role of each nutrient in our and its importance while we workout:
Role of Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are made up of starch and fibre. They are the body’s primary source of energy. It is basically found in cereals, grains, fruits and vegetables. When on a healthy lifestyle plan, one should be eating less of starch and more of fibre e.g. should avoid simple carbohydrates like sugar, fruits juices, refined cereals, starchy foods like potatoes, white rice, sago etc. One should include complex carbohydrates like whole grains, beans, lentils. Good quality complex carbohydrates should also be taken before workout. In general starchy food intake should be kept at a minimum like sago, white rice, pasta unless one is going for marathon or strenuous exercises.
When you exercise, glycogen breaks down into sugar to supply the body with glucose. The glycogen reserve of the body should be replenished immediately to keep the energy up and avoid muscle lethargy, cramps post workout, hence a fruit can be eaten before and after a workout session.
Role of Fat: Do not be afraid of consuming fats. Fats are an essential part of a healthy diet and should be consumed in moderation. Fats improves brain development, helps in overall cell functioning, protects the body’s organs and even helps you absorb vitamins found in foods. Fats also help in lubrication of joints to ease the body movements and avoid joint pain after workout.
Some examples of good fat are walnuts, almonds, seeds (pumpkin, chia, flax), avocados, olives, fish and coconut. Avoid trans fats which is mostly found in fried and baked food.
Role of Protein: Proteins not only build strong muscles but also performs some vital processes in our body and thus needs to be constantly replenished. This can be accomplished by regularly consuming foods that contain good quality protein. Proteins are necessary in building and repairing body tissues. If enough protein is not included in your diet, muscles wasting and other symptoms may occur. Exercises like strength training, and weightlifting often cause micro tears in the muscles and as your body repairs these tears, it causes the muscles to enlarge which again requires proteins. E.g. of good quality proteins are eggs, lean meat, poultry, soy, nuts, seeds, milk and milk products – these should be included liberally in your diet especially when you exercise regularly.
Role of Micronutrients: Micronutrients are commonly referred to as “minerals and vitamins.” These include calcium, iron, selenium, sodium, potassium, iodine and zinc. They also include all the vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E, K, B-complex vitamins and ascorbic acid.
A study conducted at UK states micronutrients play key roles in energy metabolism and during strenuous physical activity. Prolonged exercise sessions on regular basis may result in micronutrient depletion from the body, resulting in the requirement of an increased dietary intake. Minerals and Vitamins are needed for energy production, synthesis of hemoglobin, carrying oxygen to the various body organs, for bone health and muscle strength, immune system, protection against oxidative damage; synthesis, and repair and maintenance of lean body mass.
Levels of micronutrients – primarily magnesium, iron, calcium, chromium and zinc – are generally low in our diets. Inadequate calcium intake increases the risk of low bone mineral density thereby risking fractures injuries and early osteoporosis.
To increase the intake of micronutrients in your diet prefer having fresh fruits and vegetables as cooking, processing, packaging depletes these water soluble vitamins. For calcium, a well known millet Ragi (Nachni) is an excellent source of calcium which can be included in your diet along with chia seeds, amaranth, sesame seeds, almonds, etc. To fulfill the requirement of other micronutrients like zinc, iron, magnesium add nuts and seeds in your diet.
Food impacts the way your body functions. What you eat is going to impact many aspects of your body like your stamina, endurance, recovery from sickness and basic energies. Food also helps the way your body burns fat and in turn your metabolism too. Nutrition fuels your workout and one cannot exercise hard if they take inadequate diet. To get the most out of your workout routine, you need to nourish your body with quality foods and drinks to give you the adequate energy that exercise requires.
So it is essential that you set your nutrition and workout right. Get a balance between both because it is important to give the right nutritional support to your body with your workout regime in order to achieve complete physical well being.
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