Welcoming a New Year has become almost synonymous with a renewed commitment to gym, the yoga studio, the running trail... It's a common sense but often forgetten fact: one of the most important things you can do to make sure this commitment outlasts your New Year’s Day hangover, is get all the nutrients you need to support your body while it’s working hard! Severely restricting your calories while physically pushing yourself is a sure fire way to have an absolutely miserable time exercising. You’ll completely exhaust yourself, and your body won’t be able to effectively repair itself and develop that strength and muscle tone you’re after. And if you’re having a miserable time you, like any sane person, are not going to want to keep doing the thing that’s making you miserable!
Unless you’re actively training for gold you won’t need to down huge bowlfuls of pasta the night before a workout, but carbohydrates—which are stored mostly in the muscles and liver—are necessary for exercise. It’s a really good idea to eat some beforehand (most people feel much more comfortable if they’ve given themselves an hour or two to digest before exercising). It’s also very helpful to consume some carbs within half an hour of finishing up, in order to replenish your muscles’ energy stores. Ideally, of course, you’ll want to focus on complex carbs from whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes, which provide fibre, vitamins, and minerals in addition to energy.
Protein, on the other hand, is your body’s second choice for an energy source; it’s accessed only after all the available carbs have been used up. The best way your body can use protein is for repairing the tissues that have been working so hard for you, and building muscle. From high quality meats to quinoa (see our recipe for Kale and Quinoa Minestrone!) there are so many different ways to fit protein into any kind of diet, and if you’re going to be spending some time sweating it’s extra important to have a good handle on at least one consistent and substantial protein source.
And don’t forget liquids! It can be second nature to have a water bottle on hand while you’re actually in the gym, but if you’re properly hydrated before you even start that will make a big difference to how your workout feels. Being dehydrated can make you feel lightheaded just sitting at a desk so that situation is only going to get quickly worse when you hit the trail or a treadmill.
When it comes to fitness and exercise—and life in general, for that matter—it really pays to remember that food is not your enemy, it’s your fuel! Our best wishes for an awesome, healthy, and productive 2016, whatever your resolutions and goals may be!