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20 Feb 2017 3,912
Improving Physical Ability

Nutrition and Hydration for Physical Activity

Understanding nutrition and hydration is essential for anyone who is physically active. This blog gives information on eating well and keeping hydrated that will be useful for coaches and athletes alike

As every new-year approaches, many of us will look to it as 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 YouTube 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.

Starting out

Try these 5 quick and easy 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

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.


Practical tips for helping people understand nutrition and hydration


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.

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.

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.

Healthy hydration

So now that we have got our eating plan sorted what about keeping hydrated?

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.

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Related Resources

The Public Health England Eatwell Guide is a useful resource showing the proportions in which different types of foods are needed to have a well-balanced and healthy diet.

  • Nutrition and Hydration for Physical Activity

  • Unlocking Good Hydration: Start with Understanding Sweat

  • Hydration Guide: Are You Above the Line?


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