Nutrition for Active Bodies
by NatureBox Nutritionist Kat Brown, MS RD RYT
Sports nutrition gets a lot of hype- and stirs up a lot of confusion. How do you separate the propaganda from good solid nutrition advice? Let’s review some foundations of fuel for active bodies to get you feeling well-fed for whatever active pursuits come your way.
Get the basics
Dietary variety and sufficiency are core tenets of a good sports nutrition plan. Having a well-rounded, nutrient dense diet with enough total energy (calories), protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and heart healthy fats is a sound nutrition prescription for just about anyone, but can be especially important for people who challenge their bodies with physical activity.
Top it off with carbs
We’ve all heard about having that big pasta meal before a competition, but is carbo-loading actually helpful? Carbs are the main source of energy during activity- so active people shouldn’t shy away from them. If you compete intensely for more than 90 minutes, you may benefit from having more carbohydrates a few days before competition. This helps top off the energy stores in your muscles.
Hydrate and replenish carbohydrates for endurance
Sports gels and drinks are tools that endurance athletes use to maintain their glycogen, the carbohydrate energy, in the body, and stay hydrated. These products are a helpful source of carbohydrates if your activity lasts longer than 1-2 hours. Sports drinks and coconut water replenish the salts your body loses from sweating, and taste good so you drink more and are encouraged to get enough fluid. If you’re exercising for less than an hour, drinking water will keep you hydrated and energized.
The protein supplement section at the health food store is dizzying. Athletes look to these products to improve performance, bulk up, or slim down but are they beneficial? Protein bars and shakes can be convenient, tasty snacks, but don’t look to them as a magic bullet- eating more protein doesn’t mean building more muscle or getting leaner. Most Americans get enough protein from their usual diets. Strict vegetarians may need to be more aware of getting sufficient protein, but for the majority of people, protein supplements are unnecessary.
Fuel up and carry on! For more information about sports nutrition, check out the Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Group’s nutrition fact sheets.
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Kat Brown MS RD RYT is a San Francisco Bay Area based Registered Dietitian and Yoga Teacher. As a nutrition counselor, writer, cook, and yogini she seeks to inspire others to nourish themselves and live balanced, fulfilled lives.