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Eating for Health & Fitness

The key to fitness is a combination of regular physical exercise and a well balanced diet. Undertaking regular physical exercise increases your body's metabolic rate which helps it utilize the nutrients most effectively. Exercise also helps burn more calories preventing them being stored as body fat and can aid weight loss.

A well balanced diet is central to good health and in brief this means eating a balance of carbohydrates, fat, protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals and drinking plenty of fluids. A well balanced diet should contain:

  • 30% fruit and vegetables which provide a variety of vitamins, minerals and fibre. We should aim to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day, 1 portion being 80g, one apple, or 2-3 tablespoons of vegetables.
  • 30% potatoes, pasta, rice and bread which give us energy and power as well as being a good source of fibre. Avoid adding too much fat (such as butter) or creamy sauces which can also be high in salt.
  • 15% milk and dairy products which are the best source of calcium needed for strong and health teeth and bones. Where possible use half fat product s s uch as cheese and semi/skimmed milk to reduce the fat content.
  • 15% meat and fish which provides us with protein and helps the body grow and repair skin cells that have been damaged. Protein is used to build muscle, but too much protein in the diet converts to fat stores which are more difficult to burn off.
  • 10% from fat and sugary foods - although these foods are high in energy they should be limited and eaten in very small amounts. Low fat and sugar alternative s s hould be used where possible, particularly in cooking, or if possible avoid using altogether. Try to remove fat from meat, skin from poultry and batter from fish.

A balanced diet should be supplemented by a regular intake of fluid to help hydrate the body and flush out impurities. The best fluid to drink is water, and the worst are sugary drinks which should be avoided. If you drink fruit juice, one glass a day counts towards 1 portion of your fruit intake (regardless of how much you drink).

By eating a balanced diet you should have all the nutrients you need for your exercise regime, ensure you eat enough food to be able to maintain your exercise levels.

During exercise your body will use energy in different ways, depending on the type of exercise and the duration. The first energy stores which are used during exercise are called glycogen - this is the energy stored in the body's muscles therefore it is important to maintain your levels of glycogen which you can achieve by eating a diet rich in carbohydrates. This must be balanced against your exercise. Too many carbohydrates and too little exercise can result in weight gain.

Supplements & sports drinks

Some people choose to take vitamin and mineral supplements in addition to their diet to ensure they have the right nutrition during exercise. Most people don't need to do this and should be getting what they need providing they are eating a balanced diet. If you take supplements that increase your energy intake too much sometimes you may not burn it off and the result will be increased weight.

Some people use sports drinks to help them re-hydrate more quickly after exercise, water will have the same effect although take a little longer to achieve. Some sports drinks do contain other stimulants, such as caffeine, which can make you feel as though you have more energy, sooner after exercise.

Will exercise help with slimming & weight loss?

The principle behind all weight loss programs is to make you burn more calories than you intake. Depending on the nature, intensity and duration of the exercise calories will be burnt off, however to aid slimming and weight loss the exercise must be physical and involve you pushing your body more than you normally would on a regular basis. For maximum benefit you should exercise regularly and follow a well balanced diet which is low in fat and sugar.



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