It's a well known fact that we need to be physically active to maintain good health. In a society with increasing inactivity and obesity, we cannot reinforce enough the importance of moving your body. Exercising regularly has a plethora of benefits including:
reducing your risk of heart attack
managing your weight better
decreasing blood pressure, cholesterol and reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes
increases bone density and decreases your risk of osteoporosis
enables you to recover more quickly from illness
makes you feel better in general - have more energy, better mood and better quality sleep
But whilst all these things are enhanced through exercise, many of us forget that nutrition has the LARGEST impact on our fitness. I am such an advocate for this that I have undertaken a nutrition course to better understand the correlation between nutrition and exercise. Whilst I am working my way through this course and doing further research myself, I note that the current trend is to focus on a healthy food intake as a primary fitness goal. Research indicates that whilst exercise is important, nutrition has the biggest impact on our fitness. Why? Eating nutrient dense foods including lean proteins, healthy carbohydrates and fats are essential to our health. Our body requires a variety of 'essential nutrients' that are only obtained through diet. If you're doing a lot of exercise but are still holding onto fat stores and feeling as though you don't have enough energy to maintain your workouts, applying better nutrition may be all that's required to see results? According to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, depriving your body of important nutrients has been shown to decrease our ability to lose fat, maintain muscle and is also linked to lower metabolism. This in turn makes fitness goals more difficult to obtain as we are never 'firing on all cylinders.' Research has found that when you choose to eat a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods to support your active lifestyle, you will see the greatest result. (source verywellfit.com).
According to the department of Health, "whether you are a competing athlete, a weekend sports player or a dedicated daily exerciser, the foundation to improved performance is a nutritionally adequate diet." (source betterhealth.vic.gov.au). The Department recommend the following in relation to daily nutrition training requirements. Your diet will:
provide enough energy and nutrients to meet the demands of training and exercise
enhance adaptation and recovery between training sessions
include a wide variety of foods like wholegrain breads and cereals, vegetables (particularly leafy green varieties), fruit, lean meat and low-fat dairy products to enhance long term nutrition habits and behaviours
enable the athlete to achieve optimal body weight and body fat levels for performance
provide adequate fluids to ensure maximum hydration before, during and after exercise
promote the short and long-term health of athletes
So what more can we do to promote holistic fitness?
It is timely that I write this blog because I have just had a consult with one of the Naturopaths from Gisborne Health Essentials and have changed a few things about my diet. Now I don't follow any fad diets - I hate limitations and have grown up in a household of 'moderation.' My ethos around food is to have a diet that is maintainable but most of all enjoyable! My drive for going to the naturopath came from constant complaints such as gut issues and skin issues that sadly as I get older, only get worse :( Whilst I keep physically active and regularly workout (you've seen Lou and I like to get along to each others classes and occasionally go one-on-one for a good old sparring session....) I still felt tired, lethargic and constantly bloated. So here is the segue to my anomaly - I was doing a lot of exercise but I still didn't feel fit! So fast forward a week and let me tell you the difference:
After following my tailored nutrition plan for just over a week now, I noticed the following (please note this is all anecdotal):
My skin felt less dry and 'clearer'
I was able to open my bowels every day - hallelujah! Over sharing here but constipation is a bit*^
I haven't been as sore and feel as though recovery post exercise has been enhanced
I am sleeping better (apart from the small child spontaneously calling out and waking me from my deep slumber)
I feel I have better insight - because I am feeling better in general, I have a more positive outlook
I feel my performance during exercise has improved
I only wished I had made these changes earlier but alas, you don't know what you don't know.
So when I coupled good nutrition with regular exercise I began feeling the best I have felt in ages! Why wouldn't you want to be the best version of yourself? We don't need to put up with annoying and incapacitating symptoms - sometimes we can do more to help ourselves. Personally I have found that consulting an expert about my issues not only opened my eyes to a better diet but motivated and inspired me into making changes. And the best thing- the changes were actually really easy to implement! I'm still drinking coffee, I still have a treat when I want, I am just more cognisant of what foods are going to be detrimental to my health. It has become apparent that by including a wider variety of nutrients in my diet, it has quickly lead to significant gains in my overall health. So remember, being fit is more than just being physically fit. Nutrition and exercise go hand in hand and when they are in a state of harmony - look out fitness goals!!!