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,
protein, obtained mostly from pulses, poultry, red meat, fish,
cheese, eggs and seeds, and
minerals and essential
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
on the day of an event, and eat a diet permanently rich in complex
SCALING UP 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
NORMAL PROTEIN INTAKE
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
can have a serious effect on calcium levels. In turn, this can lead to
osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones.
VITAMINS AND MINERALS
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
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.
SPORTS DRINKS - GOOD OR BAD?
"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
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.