Nutrition and exercise – what you should bear in mind
People who are very active in their leisure time do not need to eat in a way that is fundamentally different from people who exercise less. The food pyramid recommendations for a healthy and balanced diet also apply to very active people. This article will provide you with all the information you need to achieve the right diet when exercising.
The basic rule of thumb when exercising: a nutrient-rich diet
Anyone who does a lot of sport has an increased need for energy as well as certain vitamins and minerals. This increased need can be met by eating slightly larger meals and nutrient-rich foods.
Your body will thank you if you refrain from meeting the increased need for energy by consuming sweets, salty snacks or alcohol. Instead, eat an additional portion of wholegrain products or pulses such as lentils, chickpeas or kidney beans. Besides energy, these provide your body with a number of valuable nutrients.
It is also important to drink enough!
Drinking is, of course, also part of maintaining the right diet before, during and after exercise. The amount of fluids required depends on the temperature, the type of exercise and the intensity of that exercise. At an average level of training, you should usually consume 400 to 800 ml of fluids an hour. During training, it is better to keep drinking small amounts than to drink a large amount all in one go.
Ideal drinks for your exercise sessions include:
unsweetened cold or lukewarm tea
fruit juice diluted one to one with water
Heavily sweetened and carbonated drinks are not recommended. Carbon dioxide can lead to nausea and burping during exercise. Special sports drinks are neither necessary nor useful in recreational sport.
Nutrition before exercise
The last main meal before training should have been about three to four hours ago. Very fatty and protein-rich foods can make you feel unwell when exercising, as can spicy dishes.
There are people who prefer to train on an empty stomach, while others need something to fortify them before exercising. This also depends on the type of exercise and the intensity of the training. Eating high-fat foods before exercising can lead to discomfort during exercise. The best diet before exercise varies from individual to individual and needs to be tested out. So test how you feel when exercising after consuming certain foods.
Anyone wishing to eat something small before exercising is best off reaching for light, carbohydrate-rich foods. Examples include:
a ripe banana
1-2 rice cakes
a small piece of white or dark bread
a small Biberli cookie
2-3 Läckerli biscuits
low-fat, oat-based muesli bars
Sports lovers have an increased need for iron
Very active people can have an increased need for iron. So iron deficiency is not uncommon, and affects female athletes in particular. Frequent indicators include constant tiredness, hair loss, pale skin and dizziness. Iron deficiency can be identified by way of a blood analysis conducted by a doctor. Iron supplements or iron infusions can help if someone is iron deficient.
The right diet when exercising: the need for protein
It is, of course, important for active people to eat enough protein. The need for protein during exercise is often overestimated, however – including in strength training. Most of us eat more protein than is necessary and recommended. Only in the case of a vegan diet is it not so easy to get enough protein. In the guide on high protein, you can find out when there is actually an increased need for protein during exercise.
Tips for your training
If you exercise for the sake of your figure, it makes sense to ensure that your pulse does not rise too high, as fat is burnt mainly at a moderate level of effort. At a very intense level of effort, you will mostly burn carbohydrates. If the carbohydrate stores in your body are empty, however, you can start to feel very hungry. This often causes people to eat excessively after exercise.
When endurance training, therefore, it is preferable to jog, walk, hike or cycle for slightly longer, but at a comfortable pace. What matters is that you feel well when exercising. Exercise should be pleasurable and not mean any additional stress.
Regular strength training helps to build and maintain muscle mass and is an ideal complement to endurance training. Muscles increase the need for energy when at rest and thus help to maintain a healthy body weight.