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Guide: Improving Health and Wellbeing - The Basics
Sun 18 Apr 2010
Following a healthy and balanced lifestyle provides the foundations for both physical and mental health, maintains a sense of wellbeing, and significantly reduces the chance of illness and injury. At its simplest, this means eating a healthy, mixed diet, and taking part in regular exercise. For anyone who already trains regularly and follows a tailored diet, supplementation with the right nutritional products at the right times can help to ensure performance gains from training, injury prevention, muscle and joint care, and recovery from exercise are all optimised.
Key Training Points
Ensure you are getting regular exercise throughout the week
Aim for around 30 minutes cumulative exercise time per day, from a variety of different activities
Perform exercise at moderate intensities
Vary the type of exercise to prevent boredom
Key Nutrition Points
Provide a sustained supply of nutrients to your body by consuming small, frequent well-balanced meals each day
Ensure each meal contains a portion of fruit or vegetables
Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated
Consume sufficient protein throughout the day
Consume complex carbohydrates for sustained energy provision
Make sure you are satisfying dietary needs for vitamins and minerals
Eat foods rich in antioxidants
Whether it be from exercise, work or social factors, fuelling your body with the nutrients it requires to effectively deal with these stresses is key to maintaining peak health and wellbeing. Furthermore, a lack in any of the key nutrients can hinder sporting performance, reduce immune function and leave you susceptible to both injury and illness.
As mentioned, a healthy diet is important to maintain immune function and sustain resilience of the body to withstand the rigours and stresses of training. The basic quality of a diet needs to be nutritionally balanced, supplying sufficient amounts of the key nutrients required by the body. Those undertaking training programs will undoubtedly consume more calories than their sedentary counterparts in order to fuel exercise sessions. It is important to ensure that these calories are derived from nutritious foods. In order to understand healthy nutrition, that is such an integral part of health and wellbeing, it is important to understand the different categories of nutrients and their functions.
Carbohydrates have a crucial role in energy provision and exercise performance. They are the predominant fuel source during high-intensity exercise. Therefore it is important that sufficient carbohydrates are consumed both throughout the day to provide a sustained release of energy, and also both immediately before and after exercise in order to both provide the energy required to fuel training sessions, and replenish depleted energy levels following exercise. With the exception of straight after exercise where quick release carbohydrates are required to replenish energy stores, carbohydrate intake throughout the day should be from complex slow-release carbohydrate sources such as wholemeal breads and pastas, as this will contribute to sustained energy release, long-term good health, and appetite control.
Along with carbohydrate, fat is an extremely important energy source during endurance exercise. Many people associate fats with health risk, lowered sports performance and weight gain. In reality, we need some fat to keep us healthy and maintain sporting performance. Dietary fat provides the essential fatty acids (EFA) that cannot be synthesised by the body, and which are involved in biological processes as opposed to just energy provision. It's choosing the right fat source that is important, and fats high in polyunsaturates and monounsaturates should be selected over fats high in saturates. As well as the provision of energy during exercise, fats have many other roles including helping to protect vital organs.
Dietary protein is essential for the promotion of growth and development. Muscle, soft tissues, and organs consist largely of protein, and for any tissue growth or repair to occur protein is required. Amino acids are the building blocks of all proteins. Of the 20 amino acids normally found in dietary protein, our bodies can only synthesise 12. Therefore the remaining 8 must be derived from the diet, and are known as essential amino acids. As well as being precursors for protein synthesis required for growth and repair, amino acids also play key roles in a number of biological processes in many organs and tissues throughout the body, provide structure to all cells in the human body, and also act as an energy source.
Vitamins and Minerals
Collectively known as micronutrients, vitamins and minerals are essential compounds required in relatively small amounts in order to regulate metabolism and maintain good health. Vitamins are organic compounds required in small quantities from the diet for specific metabolic reactions in the body, and for promoting normal growth and development. Several vitamins act as antioxidants and help to protect the body against potentially damaging effects of free radicals. Minerals are inorganic compounds essential to life processes, and are required through the diet to maintain optimum health and physical performance. Minerals serve a number of purposes including; providing the building blocks for body tissues; maintaining regulation of metabolism, promoting immune health and maintaining electrolyte balance.
Antioxidants prevent or limit the potentially harmful actions of free radicals within the body. Free radicals are common by-products of normal reactions within the body, and are highly reactive molecules capable of causing damage in tissues throughout the body. Exercise and strenuous activity is known to increase the prevalence of free radicals and thus increase the potential of muscle tissue damage. Increased intake of antioxidant vitamins and minerals has been suggested to reduce the extent of exercise-induced muscle damage.
The adult body is about 60% water by weight. Water is an essential nutrient and serves many purposes within the body. It is responsible for transporting nutrients, providing protection, regulating body temperature, maintaining hydration status, and also facilitates many biochemical reactions. Therefore it is important to make sure enough water is consumed throughout the day to maintain health and good physical performance.