Nutrition and hydration for physical activity
This is not a diet.
Try these 5 ways to eat healthy and stay hydrated:
1. Eat two small meals instead of one
2. Plan time to eat so you don’t rush meals
3. Keep a food diary – there’s an app for that
4. Drink small amounts often – think water first
5. Follow a healthy eating plan 80% of the time
With the new-year in full swing, many of us will be looking at 2017 to be the year we accomplish all that has eluded us in terms of our health and fitness. Many of us will be thinking about the dreaded diet, and which one will (finally) be the one that works for us. For others, it will be checking out the latest You tube exercise trend that professes to make us a slimmer and fitter version of ourselves. Whichever approach you are considering, take a look at this blog and see if these following suggestions can help you.
For those of you who are just starting out on the physical activity journey, let me share some thoughts and useful tips. Whether you are still sitting on the couch thinking about moving more and eating better or you have taken the first steps to a fitter you, there are some simple hints and tips that can help you along your journey.
Why is it important to eat well?
Eating a healthy, balanced diet plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy weight, which is an important part of overall good health. Being overweight or obese can lead to health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease and strokes. Being underweight could also affect your health. So the key is getting the balance right and eating healthily.
Healthy eating simply means eating a variety of foods that give you the nutrients you need to maintain your health, feel good and have energy to be active. No need for fad diets that may or may not work for you. For guidance on the types and amounts you need for healthy eating check out the NHS interactive eat well guide.
Hints and tips for healthy eating
Eating well does not mean giving up everything you love to eat. It’s about making small step changes in the way we do things and breaking bad habits that we may have got into and replacing them with good ones. My own example of making a small change, which is benefitting me, is reducing the amount of biscuits I have with every cup of tea. Telling me I can’t have biscuits does not work. Reducing the number I have with each cup of tea helps cut down the amount I have during the day and I am working on changing the need to have a biscuit every time I have a cuppa. So the moral of the story is to have small amounts often rather than large amounts in one go. You also need to think about the amount of food and the portion size. A neat trick it to have a smaller plate that will help reduce the amount of food you eat. The hand size guide can help you get your portions right.
Most of us will have heard various stories about diets being hard to maintain and many only working in the short term, if at all. Lasting change is achieved by making small changes that are maintained over a period of time, so as to break the bad habit and form a new good one in its place. So give yourself permission to indulge and follow a healthy eating plan 80% of the time, then 20% of the time you can be more flexible. Checkout the easy meals app from Public Health England to help you eat healthier versions of the foods you love.
So now that we have got our eating plan sorted what about keeping hydrated?
The human body is made up of 72% water and this level needs to be maintained in order to function effectively. It’s a bit like a car engine in that we have to maintain and top up the level of water to stop it breaking down.
Most people will be aware of the campaigns to drink eight glasses per day to stay hydrated and how difficult that can be. What we might not know is that all fluid, not just water counts towards this target, so a cup of tea/coffee, a fruit juice or even milk can be included. The variety of available drinks are endless and we as a nation love our soft drinks consuming 14.8 billion litres last year, or 232.9 litres each. However, there's a wide variation in the amount of sugar contained in these products. Take a look at the article from the BBC news website on the proposed government sugar tax on soft drinks and you might be surprised to learn the amounts in your favourite drink.
In the same way that we have looked at healthy eating we need to consider healthy hydration. The key here is to try to avoid drinks with high sugar and caffeine content, particularly if you are just starting out and are active for under an hour.
For those of us who may be active for an hour or more some of the sports drinks may be beneficial in helping us stay hydrated. If in doubt, stick to water as it has zero calories and is effective in keeping you hydrated.
You might find some of these additional resources useful in maintaining your motivation:
The mind set for healthy eating – Gillian Riley
Eat well guide - Gov.UK
Shanwaz Ajaib, Coaching Advisor, Sports Coach UK
If you found this blog helpful ConnectedCoaches - our free online community for coaches of all sports and activities – has posted a blog that also might interest you: ‘Golden nuggets: Dietary advice you can trust from Team GB’s Head Nutritionist’