It matters not whether you are an Olympic athlete or a beginner starting at the gym; there are several ways to improve your exercise regime by eating and drinking the right food. And I am not just talking about your healthy diet. This is about sustaining your nutritional levels while you exercise. So what do we mean by food? Well, most people think that sports nutrition is for dedicated athletes only but this is not so. Even if you are an amateur or just starting to learn a new sport, what you eat and drink can drastically improve your results and also build motivation. The trouble is, with so many products on the market, claiming to be especially for fitness and sports, it can become confusing as to which one actually does enhance performance. So where do we start?
Sports Drinks such as Lucozade Sport claim to prevent dehydration and therefore help you to exercise for longer. These isotonic drinks have a balance of sugar and salts which do help to keep you hydrated but water is typically good enough for beginners or low-level exercising.
Protein Shakes such as Precision Engineered Whey Protein claim to build up muscle as you exercise but if you are an endurance or strength athlete, you will have much higher protein demands than a normal protein drink will be able to offer you. Try eating larger portions of meat and fish instead. For moderate exercisers, a post exercise drink, made with a protein shake powder mixed with an isotonic drink will be enough.
Energy Gels as in Torq Energy Gel Sachets claim to keep up stamina during prolonged endurance types of exercising. If you are a serious sports person then these high carb gels will definitely give you an edge but make sure you have plenty of water to avoid dehydration and/or stomach upsets.
Energy Bars, for instance Lucozade Sports Energy Bars will provide muscle fuel and are very useful as a pre exercise snack as they are high in carbohydrates. Be wary however to watch the sugar content, if you are counting calories and working out to lose weight, you may be putting in more than you are working off.
Creatine as in PowerBar Creatine is good for improving performance at high intensity exercises. It can give top athletes the drive and edge but be careful as it can also make you prone to weight gain.
Recovery Bars such as the Multipower Recovery Bar claim to help with repairing and refuelling after you have worked out. These bars contain vitamins, protein and carbs which will help the muscles recover much better but all you need is to eat a meal or have a glass of milkshake to have the same effect. The benefit is convenience more than anything.
Whatever you eat before, during and after a work out, make sure you always drink plenty of water throughout your exercise routine and have a piece of fruit, such as a banana with you to boost your energy levels immediately afterwards.