In this guest blog from our friends at SportNI, we get some top tips for nutrition from performance nutritionist Lorna Cooke RD SENr.
As a performance nutritionist, I work with all different types of people.
What you eat and when you eat it can have a profound effect on your overall health and wellbeing. As we strive to make lifestyle changes as part of The parkrun Resolution, here are some tips that I can offer to help you maximise your own health.
Eat a well-balanced and wholesome diet
Aim to fill your plate with wholesome, nutrient dense foods from all the main food groups to boost energy and immunity.
If you are choosing a carbohydrate source, think about switching to wholegrain carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread, brown rice and pasta, wholegrain cereals and porridge rather than more refined varieties.
We all need protein-rich foods like meat, fish, pulses, legumes, eggs and dairy products. Their role is to provide the building blocks of muscle, amino acids, for repairing damage or building new tissue. Dairy products can also provide important nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D for bone health.
We should aim to ‘eat a rainbow’ of different colours to ensure a varied intake of micronutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc, folic acid and antioxidants.
Finally, it’s good to include fats in your diet from sources such as nuts, seeds, avocado, oily fish and olive oil.
Get your timings right
Everyone’s tolerance is different but you could aim to have a light meal or snack containing carbohydrates and protein up to an hour before you exercise, for example banana or rice cake with a nut butter, a porridge, or a jacket potato depending on the time of day.
Fuel may be required during longer training sessions, such as those over 90minutes – but this is very individual and it is important to find out what works for you in terms of energy levels and overall health.
After finishing exercise, recovery is essential. A snack or meal containing carbohydrate and protein can help to replace fuel and assist with repair. If your session was less than an hour, you can use your next meal as your recovery. If the exercise lasted longer than that, was particularly strenuous or you are training again within eight hours then it is good to eat something within 30 minutes of finishing.
Good recovery foods include porridge, milk/yoghurt and fruit or a meal containing meat/fish/pulses, vegetables and wholegrain carbohydrates.
Don’t forget about fluids
There is some evidence to suggest that dehydration can negatively affect your performance both physically and mentally resulting in early fatigue, poor concentration and decision making and an increased perceived rate of exertion (exercise feeling harder than it normally does).
However, we must also remember that excessive drinking can also result in problems, due to the dilution of electrolytes. It is a fine balance!
Keep an eye on the colour of your urine and try to aim for a pale straw yellow colour. Darker urine or not passing a lot of urine, feeling thirsty or having a dry mouth are some of the key indicators of dehydration.
What to drink? Water is the best fluid to drink day to day, and you can try adding a slice of lemon to give it a boost!
I hope this overview has given you some food for thought. Remember, we all should try to eat for overall health and wellbeing, and making small, positive changes to what you eat and when you eat it can make all the difference.
Lorna Cooke RD SENr
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