Ounce of prevention | Exercise requires nutrients
"If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health."
As the close of the year approaches, an interesting pattern of behaviour emerges. In November and December, unhealthy habits and poor lifestyle choices increase.
By contrast, in January, New Year's resolutions to turn over a new leaf abound. Gyms and health clubs are busier than ever and fad diets are the in thing. But in a few weeks most people are back to where they started. Let's change that unhealthy cycle.
In the Kingdom of Wellness, nutrition and exercise are indeed king and queen. Unfortunately, many people only focus on one or the other and fail to enjoy all the benefits that both can bring. Experts point out that exercise alone does not make people healthy.
Once you get to age 40, your body starts ageing faster than before. Studies have shown that after 40, without the proper nutrients and exercise, your body will age an extra six months for every passing year. That means that if you are now 40, when you get to 50 you may look and feel like 55 and by 60 you could have a 70-year-old body.
After age 35, most people begin losing muscle. You not only lose muscle, the tissue that gives your body shape, tone and strength, but you also add fat, the thing that contributes to many diseases. These negative changes can be slowed down and even reversed. You can look younger at 50 than you did at 40.
But research indicates that too much exercise, especially endurance exercises like long-distance running, can actually accelerate ageing. Balance is the key factor.
Exercise requires nutrients: When you exercise, your body requires more nutrients than when you do not exercise. Sweating during your workout increases your loss of minerals like sodium, potassium and magnesium. Accelerated free radical production caused by exercise increases the need for antioxidants like vitamins C and E.
After exercise, your body uses nutrients to strengthen and rebuild itself. If you do not provide the cells of your body with the right nutrients during that important period, your recovery will be compromised, and you lose the full benefits of all your efforts. Exercise damage your muscle fibres (micro-trauma), which are in turn healed and repaired using amino acids from dietary proteins, resulting in healthier, stronger muscles. Bones and joints subjected to the stress of exercise afterwards strengthen and remodel using nutrients like calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.
Planned nutrition is thus an extremely important part of any fitness programme. Even if you only exercise a few days per week, your daily diet and supplements are vital for best results.
Optimise protein: Protein is the main food class that the body uses to repair and heal. Your own protein requirements depend on your lean body mass and your exercise programme. In general, the more intense your exercise and the more muscles you have, the more protein you need in your diet. On average, women need 75 to 100gm and men 100 to 150gm of protein daily.
Choose primarily plant protein like soy, nuts, beans, peas and seeds along with animal sources like fish, eggs, whey protein and organic poultry. To speed up your recovery, have some post-exercise protein like a soy protein shake.
Use energy foods: Complex carbohydrates, particularly fruits or fruit juices, vegetables, ground provisions along with healthy fats should provide for your energy needs. The more intense your exercise, the more high-energy foods you will need just before exercise.
Hydrate: Water is the largest component of the human structure, accounting for over two thirds of your body. Water is essential for health and exercise increases your requirement for the liquid. Water should be consumed before, during and after exercise to avoid dehydration. The more you sweat, the warmer the climate, the more water your body needs. Added electrolytes as found in diluted fruit juices, coconut water and packaged hydration fluids like the one I use called H3O. Dehydration increases muscle cramping, muscle soreness and emphasised the signs of ageing on the skin.
Take supplements: Several vitamins - B complex, C, E, A, D and K and minerals - magnesium, zinc, potassium and calcium are especially important. Take a high-quality multivitamin and mineral tablet with each meal to provide the recovering cells in your body all they need all the day.
With superior supplementation (I use a plan called Cellular Nutrition), your body adapts better to the stresses of exercise.
Several herbs also enhance the benefits of exercise. The list includes energy enhancers like green tea, ginseng and guarana. I also recommend extra antioxidants, the omega-3 fatty acids, Coenzyme Q10 and creatine.
If you exercise without good nutrition, you waste much of your effort. Find the balance and experience greater fitness, stronger muscles, joints and bones, better cardiovascular health, improved emotions, a lower risk of disease, less body fat and a more youthful body.