[Article updated on 19/09/2023]
A source of energy for our body, a good quality diet plays an important role in our good physical health. It is therefore important to have a diet adapted to the physical activity practiced.
Before reading on
I’m not an expert in this field, but I am passionate about nutrition and health.
The articles you’ll find on my site are the result of in-depth research that I’d like to share with you. However, I would like to stress that I am not a health professional and that my advice should in no way replace that of a qualified physician. I’m here to guide you, but it’s important that you consult a professional for specific questions or medical concerns. Your well-being is important. So be sure to consult the appropriate experts and take the best possible care of yourself.
I suggest this article to you in order to acquire some concepts about diet and physical activity.
What is a balanced diet?
- Energy balance: the body needs to have enough energy in relation to its expenditure, we then speak of energy balance. If you bring too much energy in relation to your expenses, you risk gaining weight and clogging your body with these excesses. Conversely, if you provide too few calories, you risk weight loss, notably muscle wasting, and also intense fatigue, reduced morale, etc. In both cases, this will be detrimental to your sporting performance.
- A balance of nutrients: the body needs different nutrients to function well (carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, vitamins and minerals and water). However, some people (especially athletes) may have sufficient energy intake and an imbalance in nutrients. Despite a stable weight, this risks impacting their physical performance by causing muscle wasting, intense fatigue, an increased risk of hypoglycemia, a higher risk of injuries, etc.
By eating a little of everything, you can vary your nutrient intake while providing enough energy. However, sugary and/or fatty foods, alcohol, etc. are poor in essential nutrients. It is therefore better to limit them.
Carbohydrates and physical activity
Carbohydrates are the most important energy nutrient for athletes, they are the fuel for exercise.
There are 2 types of carbohydrates:
- THE simple carbohydrates (also called sugars) (glucose, fructose, lactose, sucrose): they often have a sweet flavor. Their assimilation into the blood is rapid.
- THE complex carbohydrates (starch compounds): our body breaks down the starch that we ingest to synthesize glycogen which is stored in the liver and in the muscles. It is involved in the supply of energy during physical activity.
In order to provide sufficient energy to the muscles during exercise, it is important to provide sufficient glycogen. Therefore, it is recommended that your meal before exercise be rich in complex carbohydrates with a low carbohydrate load. They will avoid insulin peaks responsible for hypoglycemia. It is best to avoid cooked fats as they can cause digestive problems. In addition, in order not to make too intense an effort during digestion, it is recommended that this meal be taken at least 3 hours before exercise.
A deficiency in complex carbohydrates can cause problems such as hypoglycemia, fatigue and particularly muscle fatigue.
The ingestion of carbohydrates with a high glycemic index, as is the case with foods rich in simple sugars, outside of meals promotes the production of reserve fats. It is therefore better to limit consumption.
Protein and physical activity
Proteins are essential for the development and renewal of all body tissues. They play a particularly important role in the muscle.
If protein intake is insufficient, this risks impacting performance with:
- Muscle wasting
- Loss of muscle quality
- An increase in body fat percentage
The greater your muscle mass, the more capacity you will have to store glycogen and therefore “fuel” for your muscles. In addition, good protein intake allows for better recovery thanks to better muscle repair after exercise.
The sportsman’s plate
The athlete’s plate contains during the day:
- Of the starchy foods to provide energy to the muscles. Approximately 4 servings/day (breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner) to be quantified according to your appetite.
- Of the proteins for muscle strength: 2 servings of foods rich in animal proteins (fish, meat or eggs) and 2 dairy products/day.
- Of the fruits and vegetables for their anti-oxidant action: minimum 5 servings of fruits and vegetables/day.
- Of the omega 3 for their anti-inflammatory action in the form of rapeseed oil, walnut oil and oily fish, mainly sardines and mackerel.
- Of the’water, the only essential drink and your anti-injury ally. A 2% weight loss during exercise due to lack of hydration lowers physical abilities by 20%! So make sure to hydrate yourself sufficiently with at least 2L of water during the day and a drink during exercise.
Exercise and recovery drinks? what is this ?
Hydration during exercise is improved by a carbohydrate intake which allows better digestive assimilation of water during exercise and reduces the appearance of possible hypoglycemia.
In addition, deficiencies in certain micronutrients can lead to cramps, fatigue, headaches, hypotension or even harmful effects on the heart.
So, if you do an activity lasting more than 1h30, it is better to bring an exercise drink which can avoid these inconveniences. If you do less than 1h30 of effort, water will be sufficient.
These drinks contain water, simple carbohydrates in the form of sugars, syrup or grape juice and salt.
You can make your own recipe at home rather than buying store-bought ones which are often very high in sugar. Here are some examples :
- 800 mL of water + 200 mL of grape juice + 1 g of salt
- 1000 mL of water + 50 mL of strawberry syrup + 1 g of salt
They should not be confused with energy drinks such as Red Bull®, Monster®, etc. which are not recommended before, during and after exercise because they often contain exciting elements such as caffeine.
In addition, be sure not to neglect your recovery phase after exercise.
So, during the first hour after your activity, you will replace your exercise drink with a recovery drink by replacing the salt with 4 g of dietary bicarbonate.
Also, don’t neglect the importance of a snack within 30 minutes of your physical activity, which will allow you to replenish the elements lost during exercise.
So take care of yourself! And good sport!