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Nutrition – the basics

August 31, 2011

Whether you are running, spinning or working in the gym the additional energy your body uses needs to be found from somewhere. But it’s not only additional energy which is required, extra nutrients are required to aid metabolism as well as additional fluids to maintain body temperature due to muscles producing heat. Plus exercise produces free radicals due to oxidative processes, meaning a need to increase antioxidants in the diet.

To make the most of it’s nutritional supplies the body adapts during regular training to give itself a larger blood supply to muscles and moves metabolism to energy sparing pathways. It also gains a few great health benefits;

regular exercisers have a 75% lower risk of fatal heart disease than inactive people
altered levels of neurotransmitters can promote a sense of well being
generally speaking regular exercisers have a lower body fat level and a higher lean body mass in comparison to non
exercisers
a healthier blood lipid profile with higher levels of HDL’s
people who exercise can generally consume more fat in their diet without increasing their adipose tissue levels.
Plus they generally adopt other healthy benefits such as non smoking.

In general the dietary needs of an athlete are very similar to those of a non exerciser, but differences do arise due to increased energy needs and fluid balance. Timing of meals also becomes more important as well as the intake of carbohydrates to fuel training and competition.

One thing I have discovered is that in the desire to gain a competitive advantage we will try almost anything to see if it works. In the build up to London Marathon beetroot juice was all over the press saying it ‘could’ help you to recover quicker, great PR if you own a beetroot farm, but a balanced diet would give the same results. There are a lot of fad diets out there from Atkins, to Dukan, to shakes & soups, the main thing is to gain a balanced diet and test what works for you.

If you know that your diet is correct that’s one less thing to worry about and you can concentrate on your training. One caveat is that at the elite level some advantages can be gained, but at Fab Four levels, balance is the key.

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