How To Improve Your Exercise Performance With Wholefoods

Exercise performance may be significantly enhanced by adequately fueling your body before, during and after workouts and races.  There is no one size fits all, you need to determine what works best for you.  However, some basic guidelines will help you to fuel your body correctly, improve your general health, increase mental clarity, enhance weight loss and boost your sports recovery.

How Carbohydrates Help Your Exercise Performance

It is best to train on virtually an empty stomach.  However, your body needs to be well nourished, hydrated and have enough glycogen for optimal performance.  Glucose and glycogen are both carbohydrates.  Glucose is a monosaccharide and sugar.  Glycogen is complex carbohydrate and starch, and it's made up of several glucose molecules.  Dietary glucose found in mostly plant-based foods, including simple sugars, starches and fibre.  Whatever kind of carbohydrate you eat eventually gets broken down into its purest form: glucose.  Glucose stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen.  The liver breaks down its glycogen and releases the glucose into the bloodstream for energy. The muscles use this glucose as well as their glycogen that is stored in the tissue to work. When our glycogen store is low, we start to get tired, and our performance is affected.

Eating carbohydrates with protein after a strength training workout may help your body replenish glycogen stores.   Your body's natural hormone, insulin may help replenish glycogen stores.  Insulin may help guide carbohydrates and amino acids into the muscle allowing it to refill its carbohydrate stores and help start the muscle rebuilding process.  Carbohydrates may also help satisfy your energy requirements and support muscle recovery after training.  Quality is essential when it comes to which carbohydrates you choose. As a health copywriter who would love to rave on about whole foods all day, every day I have condensed my whole food rant into this short article. You might like to try some of these combinations.

Whole foods For Optimal Exercise Performance

  • Large salads packed with green leafy vegetables, lettuce leaves, as many vegetables and colours as possible with some form of protein such as; eggs, beans, nuts and seeds, tempeh, tofu, fish, chicken, lean meat, low-fat cheese

  • Sandwich made with wholegrain bread or wholemeal wrap, filled with protein, e.g. tuna, egg, hummus, chicken, turkey, lean meats

  • Vegetable or lentil burgers with lots of fresh salad including beetroot, carrot, alfalfa, tomato

  • Stir fry vegetables with protein such as; raw nuts, sesame and sunflower seeds, tofu/tempeh/chicken/beef/fish (add some brown rice or rice noodles for extra carbohydrate)

  • Fish with steamed vegetables

  • Steamed vegetables with a tahini and olive oil dressing

  • Homemade pizzas on wholemeal pita bread topped with broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, avocado, garlic and added some protein such as lean meats, lentils or low-fat cheeses

  • Soup made with heaps of vegetables and proteins such as lean meats, beans and lentils. Pumpkin and chickpea soup is usually popular

  • Pasta with protein; tofu, tempeh, chicken, lamb, beef, fish

Improving Your Performance With Protein

We need quality protein for; growing, repairing, replacing tissue, quick recovery, and optimal performance.  The body prefers to reserve its protein stores for functional purposes rather than for energy use.  Endurance training increases your protein requirements, as your body is continually repairing and adapting in response.  You may improve your exercise performance with protein pacing.  A high-quality protein snack post workout may help your body become more efficient at utilising this protein.  Try enhancing your exercise performance with three meals plus snacks. On days when you train harder keep your three meals the same size but increase nutritious snacks.

Healthy Fats For Improving Your Exercise

They are the other primary fuel for muscles. Healthy fats are the building blocks of cell walls, hormones and so much more.  Healthy fats among so many other things, help transport vitamins A, D, E, K.  Healthy fats are essential for lowering inflammation.

Keep Your Fluids Up

Keep your body hydrated!  Before, during and after your exercise.  Most athletes will satisfy hydration needs with a fluid intake in the 550-800 ml/hr range.   Coconut water is a natural electrolyte drink which optimises hydration, helps sustain performance and may support a faster recovery after exercise.