Foods to fuel fitness

How much protein?

Despite what many active people think, protein from foods like meat, chicken, eggs, or fish is not an important source of fuel for exercise. Protein is however, important for recovery and to rebuild our muscles to make them stronger than before. While competitive athletes may need a little more protein than the recreational athlete, most of us will get more than enough protein from eating regular meals and a variety of foods.

Get your vitamin C and E

Experts have suggested that being active produces harmful free radicals – particles that can damage cells and genetic material (DNA). It may be important to eat foods rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C and E to help repair this damage. Foods rich in these vitamins include strawberries, oranges, grapefruit, kiwi fruit, olive oil, wheat germ and nuts.

Eat iron-rich foods

Studies have found that runners, particularly female runners, may have low levels of iron. This may be because they eat less meat (which is high in iron), absorb less iron or consume fewer calories. It is important to eat enough iron-rich foods such as dried fruit, spinach, enriched cereals and low-fat meat.

Add some omega-3

Early studies suggest adding marine-sourced omega-3 fatty acids may reduce inflammation and muscle soreness, which benefits athletes and beginners alike. Omega-3-rich foods include fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring, Arctic char, and trout.

Other general nutrition tips

Here are a few simple tips for enjoying nutritious foods:

  • Start your day with breakfast. Especially as you start to exercise more, you'll need the morning fuel to be productive during and after work. Skipping breakfast will only make you hungrier throughout the day and more likely to overindulge in unhealthy foods. Eating regular, smaller meals is the best way to burn calories most efficiently.
  • Keep a bowl of fresh fruit ready. Place a bowl of fruit on your kitchen table and at your desk at work.
  • Pack your lunch the night before. You'll be more likely to plan nutritious, satisfying lunches if you're not scrambling for the nearest snack in the early morning or at work.
  • Be inspired. If you enjoy cooking and eating, buy a healthy cookbook or food magazine to help you cook creative nutritious meals.

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