Eating for energy

Should you decide to explore a more active lifestyle, it pays to think about the foods you should eat; there are many great ingredients for meals that are ideal to support and sustain your energy and activity levels.

Your overall eating pattern may need a bit of readjustment. We are all familiar with the importance of cutting back on sugars and salt, avoiding too much fatty food, using all the different food groups and the 5-a-day message.

What can prove tricky is keeping those balances going on a daily basis, however much we subscribe to them.

Rather than grabbing food or snacks on the go, think about fixing some regular eating times. There’s a reason for this: you can gradually train your body to expect when the next intake of nourishment is due. Consequently those difficult-to-ignore hunger pangs start to reduce and cravings lose much of their power to tempt.

Breakfast is a key meal, setting you up for the rest of the day, so that is an ideal moment to introduce some healthier options: low-fat spreads rather than full-fat; porridge, especially in the colder months; fruit every morning. A vegetable omelette would be a good option to build in, quick to make and nutritious.

There are important nutritional choices to make throughout the day. Food plans for regular exercise will often include a greater proportion of foods with carbohydrates, the fuel for your body’s muscles – particularly the complex carbohydrates that provide long-lasting energy: rice, wholegrain pasta and bread, cereals (and good old porridge again).

During exercise sessions, a bottle of fresh, pure water is as essential as the exercise gear.

A mix of oats, nuts, pulses and seeds will really help, so it’s worth stocking up on a wide variety when you do the weekly shop – so you can keep them on the kitchen counter or alongside you at work – along with a good range of tinned, frozen and dried vegetables and fruit. A bowl with a selection of nuts and dried fruit permanently on the kitchen counter or near you at work offers a healthier choice for grazing.

Recent research suggests that a protein-rich diet also helps with exercise and maintaining lean body mass: protein shakes based on soy, whey and milk may be one good solution.

To help fight off fatigue, also consider picking foods that are rich in iron – red meats, green vegetables and some breakfast cereals can help boost your iron levels.

All of these ingredients can be combined to create tasty meals: nowadays there are many excellent cooking and recipe websites that you can explore. One great way is to pick some of the healthy, nutritious ingredients that you enjoy eating and enter them into the search engine: the power of the Internet will usually serve up a bunch of recipes you might never have tried creating.

For a quick energy boost during the day, some carbohydrates with easily released sugars are extremely effective. That doesn’t mean chocolate, sadly! More like oat cookies, or that dried fruit you’ve stocked up on, or an exercise shake. During exercise sessions, a bottle of fresh, pure water is as essential as the exercise gear: the importance of keeping hydrated can never be overstated.

Medical experts confirm that two of the best ways to reduce your health risks are to eat right and to exercise regularly and sensibly. That way you can align your decision to stay active with a determination to eat well, doubling the benefits for – and impact on – your lifestyle.