Fun and Fitness: Eating right boosts exercise efforts

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Exercise is a great way to reduce stress, improve appearance, significantly reduce your risk for disease and other physical ailments, increase energy and overall feel good every day. However, if you are not eating properly (or sleeping properly), most or all of your exercise efforts could be lost.

Think about it: if you want your car to function properly, you fuel it, and take it in for regular maintenance or repair as necessary. Your body needs regular maintenance every day in the form of exercises and fuel in the form of good food. Here are some simple nutrition tips to follow:

1. Eat regularly: eat within an hour of waking up and then about every three to four hours depending on needs. If you are very active you may require food more often.

2. Eat proper portions: Carbohydrates are typically the size of your fist, protein is typically the size of your palm and fats are typically the size of your thumb. Obviously, there are exceptions, so use this as a guide: Understanding Portion Sizes

3. Eat Carbohydrates: Carbs provide us with energy to think and do. If you are diabetic, you will have some specific carbohydrate needs. Most of us can eat whatever carb we want, but it is all about timing, portions and the right type. You need to eat whole grains for necessary B vitamins, protein and many other vitamin and mineral sources. Whole grains are the grains themselves: brown rice, oats, kamut, millet and quinoa are a few examples. Eat half of your grain servings daily as the whole grain (boiled in water) or add to salad or stir fry dishes. You can also eat processed grains as long as they are made from whole grains and contain very little extra ingredients: pasta, couscous, muffins, cereal, bread, crackers, etc. Avoid processed grains that list enriched flour and sugar in the ingredient list.

4. Don't over-consume protein: You need protein for building and repair of body tissues, but your body only needs a certain amount and the rest is excreted. This can be very stressful on your kidneys and lead to a condition called ketoacidosis. As a general rule, about 0.4 grams for women and 0.7 grams for men of protein is required for every one pound on your body on a daily basis. So if a man weighs 160 pounds, he needs about 112 grams daily.

5. Food first: supplements as required. Don't take supplements because the guy at the store sounds like he knows what he's talking about; that's what he's trained to do! Take them because you have very specific physical needs and your doctor has recommended these for you. Most of us, including elite athletes can get all or the majority of our requirements from food. Bonus: Food is cheaper.

Karen Nixon-Carroll is the Program Manager at Fitness 101, Fanshawe College Professor, YMCA fitness course trainer and examiner, Fanshawe FHP grad and holds many fitness certifications for personal training, group fitness and wellness. Email her at