General Health

How Can Nutritional Fitness Enhance Physical Activity?

The modern “picture perfect selfie click” era is constantly igniting an urge inside us to look fit and fabulous. To fulfil this inner feel-good feeling, we get attracted to lucrative unscientific online/offline physical activity programmes. Without acquiring deep knowledge about the exercise process, we immediately join them. After a few days of initial spark, we suddenly start experiencing discomfort and uneasiness.

Lack of correct knowledge about physical activity guidelines contributes to poor performance and low energy levels throughout the day. This increases the chance of in-between program dropouts. Those who keep following the same exercise routine despite their existing discomfort push themselves to detrimental health consequences like heart disease, chronic muscle fatigue, depression, stress, poor bone health and in extreme cases, untimely death.

What is the right physical activity regimen? 

Physical fitness is the ability to perform physical work, training, and other activities throughout the day. Performing some amount of physical activity daily is necessary to balance out the energy consumed and attain good physical and mental health. The level of physical activity differs from person to person depending on age, physiological status, environmental factors and self willingness.

Physical activities can be segregated into three types that is low intensity, moderate intensity and high intensity.

  • Low-intensity physical activity

This refers to slow body movement that results in a steady heart rate and no noticeable change in breathing. Example: casual walking, yoga and mild stretching exercises.

  • Moderate-intensity physical activity 

This refers to any activity that raises the heart rate, breathing rate, and body temperature, causing sweating. Example: brisk walking, aerobics and moderate stretching exercises.

  • High-intensity physical activity

It is challenging in nature and requires a lot of exertion. Perspiration occurs within a few minutes, the heart beats faster, and makes it hard to speak while exercising. Examples: running, jogging, weight lifting, gym exercise, swimming and jumping rope.

What are the principles of physical activity?

These are the crucial key components of an effective physical activity programme. The principles of exercise apply to all three types of physical activity. These principles include:

  1. Progress: Intensity and duration of exercise should be increased gradually to improve fitness level.
  2. Routineness: Fixing the physical activity schedule and maintaining constancy in exercising, resting, sleeping and eating good nutrition is a must.
  3. Overburden: Exercise load and stretching intensity should be done as per body limits. Timely identification and differentiation of pain due to regular exercise or injury should be done.
  4. Variation: Physical activities should be changed periodically to reduce boredom and maintain motivation.
  5. Healing: With a few days of exercise, a day of rest or no exercise should be followed. This will help the body to recover and regain strength.
  6. Goal setting: Short and long term achievable goals should be fixed to maintain specificity.
  7. Safety and Smart Training: It is advisable before beginning a moderate and high-intensity physical activity program, to get physically checked by a health practitioner. As per the doctor’s advice, current health status and prior history, physical activities should be chosen.

What is nutritional fitness?

This includes a practical balanced daily eating plan providing the fuel for physical activity, facilitating healing and building strength. It also helps to promote overall health and wellness. It is very important to find a balance between eating the right quality and quantity of foods and staying physically active.

How is nutritional fitness related to physical activity performance?

Total physical activity fitness is not just about exercise, but also includes good nutrition and a sensible diet. Maintaining healthy body weight and low body fat percentage through a sound diet and exercise, ensures the best health, fitness, and ideal physical performance.

As per studies, lack of nutrition knowledge related to individual physical activity leads to below optimum dietary intake of energy and essential nutrients. All these disturb the harmony of delicate body functions and mostly lead to nutrient deficiencies of vitamin D, zinc, calcium, magnesium and B vitamins. In the long term, it increases the risk of chronic lifestyle diseases.

Overly obsessing on being lean leads to unrealistic striving for low body weight. This is achieved by following inauthentic extreme diets and various unhealthy eating behaviours, like chronic dieting, excessive calorie counting, and food-related anxiety. All of these result in more serious clinical repercussions.

Nutrition is considered one of the foundations of physical activity performance. A balanced eating plan, and adequate water and fluid intake throughout the day are essential for healthy living. Following an effective nutritional strategy before, during and after physical activity reduces fatigue, improves muscle function, increases exercise tolerance and expands health benefits.

What to eat before exercise?

  1. Easy to digest, well-tolerated, low fibre carbohydrates and low-fat proteins
  2. For example, a grilled chicken sandwich, a handful of soaked almonds, hard-boiled eggs, low-fat milk, slices of apple or banana
  3. High fat, fibre, protein and unfamiliar foods should be avoided
  4. Exercising while fasting or without food should be strictly prohibited, it may cause more fat oxidation but demand more effort to perform easy tasks and make exercise sessions less enjoyable. Also can cause low energy levels throughout the day and long-term health complications

What to eat during exercise?

  1. Only recommended for long-duration physical activities like marathons and cyclathone
  2. 30-60 gm of easy to digest carbohydrates per hour is suggested
  3. Overeating should be avoided

What to eat after exercise?

  1. In the case of moderate to high-intensity physical activity that lasts longer than 90 minutes, 0.45 gm of carbohydrate per kg body weight should be eaten within 1st few hours after exercise
  2. Also, 10-20 gms of protein should be eaten within 1-3 hours after exercise
  3. In case of low-intensity physical activity, a nutrient balanced snack like a fruit bowl, a glass of milk, a milkshake, smoothie, fruit curd, boiled nuts, or boiled eggs can be eaten
  4. Usage of sports drinks, protein powder and nutrient supplements should be done under an expert’s guidance

Substances to avoid 

  1. Alcohol and tobacco
  2. Deep-fried fat-rich processed foods
  3. Sugar and salt-rich foods
  4. Unscientific food supplements, powders and fat diets

Conclusion 

Appropriate physical activity can help maintain healthy body weight, decrease extra body fat, improve workability, mental activeness, self-esteem and overall quality of life. Also reduces health risks like hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart disease, anxiety, depression and chronic stress.

Awareness towards understanding the importance of nutrition during physical activity is mandatory. This will improve exercise performance, endurance and motivation level. A good physical activity programme should be planned under experts’ guidance. Physical activity should be done to preserve good health and not boast a false image of flawless bodily fitness.

References 

  1. Nutrients 2021, 13, 3771
  2. Nutrition Today, Volume 47, Number 2, March/April 2012
  3. Health and fitness booklet, 2005
  4. A Review. Indian J Nutri. 2016;3(2): 147.
  5. www.rutgers.edu/news/female-athletes-risk-nutritional-deficiencies

Author

Aparna Das Parmar

Aparna Parmar has over 8.5 years of rich experience in the field of nutrition and healthcare and is currently a corporate nutritionist.

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