If you want to achieve optimum performance you have to fuel your body with the right nutrients. I know so many runners who believe, because they consume a lot of calories (running is the best for weight loss) they can overload on unhealthy options. Feeding your body with the correct nutrients is vital for optimum peak performance. In order to have an abundance of energy and get the most out of your work out, a balanced diet composed of carbohydrates, proteins and fats are essential. Forget processed foods and ready-made meals, your diet should consist of fresh whole foods.
Carbohydrates are absolutely necessary for energy and endurance. It is important that the body stores excess glycogen in the liver and muscles. The higher the glycogen stores, the better your athletic performance. The lower your glycogen stores, the more your body will struggle with energy and endurance resulting in early fatigue. Glycogen is essential for any type of physical exertion How much carbs you need depends on your body mass and what type of running you intend to do. Long distance running and marathons will require more carbohydrates especially leading up to an event.
When I mention carbohydrates I am not referring to refined sugars such as white bread, white pasta, cakes, pies and processed foods, which have zero nutritional value. They supply that quick burst of energy by raising your blood sugar levels followed by a quick dip in energy. This is why complex carbohydrates are what you should be fueling your body. Complex Carbohydrates are slow releasing and do not raise blood sugar levels thus resulting in energy for longer periods of time. Good sources include: sweet potatoes, brown rice, porridge, stone ground wholemeal breads.
Protein is important for muscle repair and healing especially after an intense and long distance run. Good sources of protein are lean meats – please ensure you go for organic meats. You do not want to eat meat that has been injected with hormones and antibiotics. Tofu, lentils, beans, eggs and quinoa are also great sources of protein. Another is the superfood spirulina, which is a blue-green algae rich in protein, iron and B12.
Your good omega 3 fats known as essential fatty acids act as an anti inflammatory by protecting your joints, ligaments and tendons. They are also good for brain function, cardiovascular health, endurance and stamina. Good sources include; wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, avocados, flax seeds, linseeds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
It is so important to drink water and stay hydrated. Lack of hydration will result in poor athletic performance. You should aim at drinking 1 1/2 – 2 litres of water a day. water is also vital in flushing out toxins from the body.
Recovery after an intense workout is vital to replace fluid and nutrient loss. You need to replace electrolytes. Coconut water is a high source of potassium and is high in vitamin c which is good in fighting against cell damage. Bananas are also rich in potassium and makes a great recovery snack. Potassium helps to restore and regulate electrolyte balance. Magnesium is essential for nerve and muscle function. Good food sources are: nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables. There is a great supplement in a powder form called Ultra Muscleze by a company called Nutri. Put one teaspoon in a bottle of water and sip it through out the day. Magnesium is also known as nature’s tranquilizer.