Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand. Without an adequate diet, your workouts will suffer. On the other hand, if you don't pay attention to your body's increasing nutritional needs and simply increase your meal's bulk, you will likely put on weight. Therefore, as we increase the amount and intensity of our exercise, our body’s nutritional needs also increase proportionately, particularly if we are increasing our muscle mass. While increasing muscle mass through weight training and strength work is considered the best solution, any kind of weight bearing activity, even walking, can increase our muscle mass. This holds especially true for people who have never been physically active or indulged in fitness workouts.
The more muscle we have on our body, the higher our metabolism. This means that your body is using more energy, you might even have noticed after one or two weeks of increased exercise that you feel more hungry than usual. The simple reason is that your muscle mass and hence your metabolism has increased. Muscles need energy, it is essentially their food.
Whilst you may be exercising more, it is important that you don’t indulge in junk food to satisfy your hunger. Your muscles need healthy food to keep going. Fruit, vegetables, pulses and lean proteins such as fish, chicken and meat are important. When eating pulses, ensure you have a combination of varieties in your diet; this will help in obtaining a good variety of amino acids. Amino acids as part of nutrition are important for muscle growth and repair.
Whey protein is another food that you can have that can also benefit the growth and integrity of your muscles. However, your workouts and current diet must warrant the need for extra protein supplementation through whey protein. Though whey protein is a fast absorbing protein and considered ideal as a post-workout snack, it will make you gain weight if you haven't evaluated its need in your daily diet.
Another key element in your nutrition when increasing the intensity of your exercise is to ensure you remain hydrated. Make sure you drink water regularly throughout the day, and don’t wait until you feel thirsty to start drinking. By the time you are thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. As a general rule you should drink water, however when exercising in the heat a sports drink is perhaps more beneficial. The reason is sports drinks contain electrolytes that are important as we lose these when we sweat. They also contain sugar and salt, to replace the energy we lose and also water.
While exercise is beneficial, it releases free radicals into the body. Free radicals can damage and even destroy cells. A way to combat this is by eating foods that are rich in antioxidants. These include a wide variety of fruit and vegetables and even fruit juices. These antioxidants destroy free radicals helping you to recover from exercise.
Increasing the amount and intensity of exercise is good for your body, but make sure you keep it well fuelled to keep up with the extra activity.
*Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images
*Inputs Courtesy: Shane Bilsborough, international nutrition and exercise expert and the Co-Founder and COO of Stepathlon Lifestyle Pvt Ltd. Shane is also the author of three international best-sellers on nutrition and fitness.
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