With plans for a new year, many of us are giving thought to our fitness goals, whether they be shedding some excess weight, looking leaner or training for a specific sporting event.
In addition to working out, eating well and getting enough rest, supplements can assist you in your workouts by increasing your energy levels and stamina, as well as helping you to build muscle.
In this article, we will look at the essential nutrients your body needs to maximize your exercise efforts.
Protein is a macronutrient made up of smaller molecules called amino acids. It is found mainly in animal products such as meat, eggs and dairy as well as fish and poultry.
Lentils, nuts and certain vegetables such as broccoli and spinach are also good sources of protein.
Protein is needed by the body to help it repair and make cells, and is important in the building of muscles, bones, cartilage and skin.
It is also essential for other bodily processes such as enzyme development, management of blood sugar levels and boosting the immune system.
When it comes to exercise, especially weight training and resistance work, protein helps prevent muscle breakdown and is needed in the repair of torn or damaged muscle fibers.
Therefore, it is a necessary part of your post-workout recovery process.
This is especially helpful for those on a vegetarian or plant-based diet who often lack this building block of muscle growth.
Other benefits of protein in your diet are that it makes you feel fuller for longer and keeps your blood sugar levels stable, warding off sugar crashes.
Your body also uses more energy to digest protein, resulting in more calories being consumed.
Carbohydrates are the fuel for your body. Not only are they your body’s primary energy source but also the preferred source of energy for your brain.
Common food sources of carbohydrates include grains such as rice, bread, pasta, cereals, as well as potatoes, apples, berries, and bananas. Simple rice dishes like Traditional Mexican Rice are also high in carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are needed to fuel your workouts by giving your muscles the energy they need and help you to last longer by delaying fatigue.
Carbs are especially helpful for high-intensity exercise as they quickly convert fat into glucose.
The recommended amount of carbohydrates to eat for a light-intensity workout is about 3 to 5 grams of carbs for every kilogram of body weight.
This is equivalent to 200 to 340 grams per day for a person weighing 150 pounds. This could increase to 6 to 10 grams for longer workouts.
Most people eat protein after a workout. However, carbs are also needed to replenish depleted glycogen stores to support muscle recovery. It is important to research the best time of day to eat carbs and whether eating carbs at night aligns with your fitness goals.
One way to do this is by drinking a post-workout smoothie. Make sure you are giving your body enough protein and carbohydrates to get the best out of your workouts.
Foods to Support Your Workout
When it comes to supporting your workout needs, certain nutritionally-rich foods have been shown to help.
It’s burning calories more efficiently by increasing your metabolism or by providing you with a sustainable source of energy.
We have listed some of the ‘superfoods’ which you can incorporate into your diet to better meet your workout targets.
Spinach is packed full of essential nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorus as well as vitamins E, A, K and many B vitamins.
This nitrate-rich vegetable is great for increasing your iron levels by helping to create hemoglobin, the protein found in red blood cells which transports oxygen around the body.
Eating a spinach-rich diet can help improve your athletic performance especially at high altitudes or low oxygen conditions.
Due to its anti-inflammatory benefits, spinach is a great food to add to your workout regimen to boost muscle strength and function as well as aid muscle recovery by reducing soreness and fatigue.
This powdered green tea commonly found in Japan, is rich in antioxidants such as EGCG which has a heat-producing effect that can help boost your metabolism and burn more calories.
Often drunk as a ‘matcha latte’, the caffeine in the tea replaces the need for coffee and can help you to focus, increase your aerobic endurance as well as increase heat-production, or thermogenesis, in the body.
Due to its calorie-consuming ability, adding matcha to your workout regimen can help you achieve your weight-loss goals quicker.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink, much like a thin yogurt. Rich in minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium as well as vitamin D and B vitamins.
It has many benefits including improved digestion, aiding weight loss, and improving exercise performance.
Its K2 content can improve the health of your muscles making it ideal for muscle growth and repair while its high B vitamin levels make kefir a great energy source with anti-fatigue properties.
This blue-green alga found in mineral-rich waters also usually comes in powdered form.
Rich in iron and vitamins and minerals, spirulina also contains a protein called phycocyanin which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits which can help soothe inflamed muscles post-workout.
Spirulina can provide your body with a boost of energy helping to improve your stamina and endurance and can also reduce muscle fatigue.
All of these factors together make spirulina a potent supplement to add to your workout regime, allowing you to exercise longer and with greater intensity.
Add it to your smoothie or combine it with oats and fruits to make the perfect post-workout snack to promote muscle recovery.
These small grains are packed with fiber, antioxidants and vitamins and minerals.
They are considered a ‘complete protein’ as they contain all nine essential amino acids which the body is unable to produce by itself.
Rich in minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, millet is involved in energy production. While its vitamin B3 content supports tissue repair, metabolism and calorie-burning allowing it to powerfully boost your athletic performance.
Its high protein content makes millet ideal for a pre-workout meal which can aid muscle recovery and fatigue or as a post-workout snack.
The versatility of this grain means you can eat millet as a substitute for rice or as a porridge with small pieces of fruit and a drizzle of honey.