Eating for high energy

The more you exercise, the more you need to eat a balanced diet. The nutritional rules still apply, but with an added carbohydrate intake. The combination of healthy food and physical exertion combats stress, encourages tissue repair, rebalances hormones and releases endorphins and encephalin. Mood and outlook should improve markedly.

To boost your sporting performance, you need glucose. The body makes glucose from starches and sugars in carbohydrates, including bread, potatoes and rice and stores it in the muscles and liver as glycogen. Like everyone else, sportspeople need protein, obtained mostly from pulses, poultry, red meat, fish, cheese, eggs and seeds, and vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. Sufficient fluids, particularly in advance of sport, are vital. You should also drink water during (if possible) and after exercise to replenish fluids.


If strenuous exercise and physical fitness are an integral part of your life, you need to think long term and consistently stick to a well-balanced but varied intake of food. Most athletes have a large and nutritious breakfast, especially on the day of an event, and eat a diet permanently rich in complex carbohydrates.




Current advice for sportspeople is to obtain a maximum of two-thirds, or 67 percent, of their energy requirements from complex carbohydrates. The more glycogen the body can store, the more long-term energy it has available to put into sustained exercise. Glycogen is the main fuel that muscles use to move. Rice, pasta, potatoes, pulses and seeds are all high in complex carbohydrates, which are converted into glycogen.


Aim to obtain 10-15 percent of your calories from protein, 20-30 percent from fats and the rest from complex carbohydrates. Remember that low fat does not mean no fat - you need essential fatty acid. Your fat intake is best gleaned mainly from vegetable oils, oily fish and nuts and partly from dairy products, with a limited intake of red meat to keep your consumption of saturated fats down.





In the past, nutritionists recommended extra protein to boost energy during sports training. But 1 g of carbohydrate and 1 g of protein generate the same number of calories - four - and a high-protein diet can make the body produce too much acid. To counteract the effects of this acidity, the body uses up its supplies of sodium and calcium (which is alkaline), so high intakes of protein can have a serious effect on calcium levels. In turn, this can lead to osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones.





If you participate in sports that burns high levels of energy, make sure that you obtain the vital nutrients from your diet.

  • Choose foods containing vitamin B1 (or thiamine), such as fortified breakfast cereals, porridge, muesli, potatoes, nuts and pulses, to help digestion and for good muscle condition.

  • Vitamin B6 (or pyridoxine), found in lean meat, fish, eggs, yeast extract and soya beans, helps prevent anaemia and muscle spasms or cramps.

  • Potassium in avocados, fresh and dried fruit - especially bananas - mushrooms and potatoes regulates muscle function and body fluid levels.

  • Magnesium contributes to nerve and muscle function, so choose green vegetables, sesame seeds, wheat germ, pulses and nuts.

  • Zinc is lost continually through sweat and blood. To counteract this, you can consume shellfish, red meat, peanuts and sunflower seeds.

  • Foods rich in vitamins A, C and E, such as oily fish (herrings and sardines), vegetable oils, dairy products, citrus fruit, potatoes and red and green vegetables help your body use oxygen efficiently.


Some athletes regularly take vitamin and mineral supplements to boost their performance. There is no need to exceed the recommended daily requirements - it is much better to gain the necessary nutrients for strength, stamina and suppleness from a healthy diet.




Many "isotonic" sports drinks claim to rehydrate and boost energy, but any product containing calories will increase your energy levels. The best way to obtain calories is from the complex carbohydrates found in bread, potatoes, rice, pasta and cereals. In fact, the least nutritionally satisfactory way is by eating simple carbohydrates - that is, sugar. However, many sports drinks contain large quantities of sugar - in some cases, as much as 18 percent. Furthermore, such sweet drinks are bad for the teeth and potentially dangerous for diabetics.


Sports drinks also contain caffeine, as well as additives to enhance colour, flavour, sweetness and stability. Although it may give a sense of instant energy, caffeine can act as a diuretic and is more likely to dehydrate than replenish fluids. The additives contribute nothing to performance, although they may make the product more appealing.


The most efficient rehydration drink is a combination of fruit juice and water with a pinch of salt. For a quick surge of energy, snack on fruit such as a banana or dried apricots.

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