It’s important to have the right amount of energy when beginning a fitness regime. The 50- plus nutrients the body needs are the same for sedentary and active people. No single food or supplement can provide everything. A variety of foods are needed every day. But, just as there is more than one way to achieve a goal, there is more than one way to follow a nutritious diet.
Competitive athletes, sedentary individuals and people who exercise for health and fitness all need the same nutrients. However, because of the intensity of their sport or training program, some people have higher calorie and fluid requirements. Eating a variety of foods to meet increased calorie needs helps to ensure that the athlete’s diet contains appropriate amounts of carbohydrate, protein, vitamins and minerals.
Health and nutrition professionals recommend that 55-60% of the calories in your diet come from carbohydrates, no more than 30% from fat and the remaining 10-15% from protein. The amount of calories you need depends on your age, body size, and fitness program. For example, a 250-pound weight lifter needs more calories than a 98-pound gymnast. Exercise or training may increase calorie needs by as much as 1,000 to 1,500 calories a day for themost active athletes while a desk jockey may just need a 150 extra calories when starting a fitness regime. The best way to determine if you’re getting too few or too many calories is to monitor your weight. Keeping within your ideal weight range means that you are getting the right amount of calories.
Most activities use a combination of fat and carbohydrate as energy sources. How hard and how long you work out, your level of fitness and your diet will affect the type of fuel your body uses. For short-term, high-intensity activities like sprinting, athletes rely mostly on carbohydrate for energy. During low-intensity exercises like walking, the body uses more fat for energy.
Carbohydrates are sugars and starches found in foods like breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables, pasta, milk, honey, syrups and table sugar. Carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for your body. Regardless of origin, your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose that your blood carries to cells to be used for energy. Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram, while fat provides 9 calories per gram. Your body cannot differentiate between glucose that comes from starches or sugars. Glucose from either source provides energy for working muscles.
When you are doing an active fitness regime, your muscles need energy to perform. One source of energy for working muscles is glycogen which is made from carbohydrates and stored in your muscles.
Every time you work out, you use some of your glycogen. If you don’t consume enough carbohydrates, your glycogen stores become depleted, which can result in fatigue. Both sugars and starches are effective in replenishing glycogen stores.
As long as you are getting 1800 calories a day and have a balanced diet, you probably won’t need any specialized fitness supplements once you start a fitness regime. If you follow a vegetarian diet or avoid an entire group of foods (for example, never drink milk), you may need a supplement to make up for the vitamins and minerals not being supplied by food. A multivitamin-mineral pill that supplies 100% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) will provide the nutrients needed. A dieter who frequently cuts back on calories, especially below the 1,800 calorie level, is not only at risk for inadequate vitamin and mineral intake, but also may not be getting enough carbohydrate. Since vitamins and minerals do not provide energy, they cannot replace the energy provided by carbohydrates.
Many athletes, especially those on strength-training programs or who participate in power sports, are told that eating a ton of protein or taking protein supplements will help them gain muscle weight. People starting fitness regimes are often lured into buying protein powders or bars. However, the true secret to building muscle is training hard and consuming enough calories. While some extra protein is needed to build muscle, most American diets provide more than enough protein. Between 1.0 and 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram body weight per day is sufficient if your calorie intake is adequate and you’re eating a variety of foods. For a 150-pound athlete, that represents 68-102 grams of protein a day.
Calcium is needed for- strong bones and proper muscle function. Dairy foods are the best source of calcium. However, studies show that many women who are trying to lose weight cut back on dairy products. Women who don’t get enough calcium may be at risk for stressfractures and, when they’re older, osteoporosis. Young women between the ages of 11 and 24 need about 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day. After age 25, the recommended intake is 800 milligrams. Low-fat dairy products are a rich source of calcium and also are low in fat and calories.
Strength training takes energy and that energy comes from your intake of healthy calories, which of course come from the healthy food you eat. By following the above tips, you will be able to maintain your strength training at it’s most effective level.