When it comes to making healthy lifestyle changes, people often wonder: “What is more important, nutrition or exercise?” At InspireHealth we believe both are of utmost importance and when considered together, proper nutrition and appropriate exercise make a powerful immune boosting team.
Why is the relationship between nutrition and exercise so important?
- Think synergy: When we consider healthful nutrition and appropriate exercise as two parts of a greater whole, we benefit more than when we focus on them independently.
- Exercise aids the work of the colon: The colon is a muscle, and like all muscles, it functions best when we live an active lifestyle.
- Nutrition fuels exercise: Carbohydrates are our body’s main source of energy. Glucose is used in the cells to produce ATP –a molecule needed for muscle contraction. When we eat a healthy balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, our bodies have the macronutrients we need to sustain physical activity.
- Both support detoxification: Staying hydrating and eating a high-fibre diet help our liver, kidneys and colon eliminate toxins. Exercise also helps cleanse our bodies through sweating, deep breathing, moving our digestive organs and circulating lymphatic fluid.
Although nutrition and exercise work closely together, focus on only one at a time!
- Avoid eating on-the-go: If energy and resources are going to working muscles, they cannot be optimally supporting digestion. Be mindful and present in each activity, take time to slow down and enjoy your meal.
When to eat and what to eat to fuel exercise?
- Balance your blood sugar: Eating a balanced meal or snack with carbohydrates, healthy fats and lean protein helps to prevent blood sugar levels from spiking and crashing. Too much carbohydrates in our system causes the glucose that is not used as energy to be stored as fat. While too little glucose triggers our stress response, causing fat to be conserved and necessary structural proteins to be burned as fuel.
- Food in the tank, not in the stomach: How much to eat depends on the time until activity. If you have less than 30 minutes before your activity, eat a quickly digesting carbohydrate such as a piece of fruit. With 1-2 hours before activity, try a well-balanced snack like trail mix. If you are planning a meal 2-3 hours before, incorporate a complex carbohydrate, lean protein and healthy fat. And always consider your digestion time!
- Rest and Digest vs Fight or Flight: Eating when we are relaxed and present allows proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. Following exercise, once your heart rate and breathing have returned to normal, make sure to refuel with carbohydrates 30-45 minutes after, and have all three macronutrients within 90 minutes.
- Moving Forward: A Complete Activity Plan
- Wake up rested: Set routines and plan ahead –go to bed and wake up at the same time, prepare healthy meals and plan a time to exercise the day before.
- Pre-Hydrate: Prepare your body for activity by staying hydrated. Without adequate water, our blood is less efficient at transporting oxygen and nutrients and our muscles are not able to generate strong contractions.
- Pre-Fuel: Remember –fuel in the tank, not in the stomach.
- Warm Up: A gentle warm up incorporating full body movements and deep breathing allows our bodies to prepare for further exertion. This will help prevent injuries and early fatigue.
- Exercise: Find activities you enjoy doing! A well-balanced exercise regime should include aerobic exercise, strength training, stretching, balance and coordination training throughout the week. Not sure where to start? Consult a professional to have a program designed for you.
- Cool Down and Stretch: Allow your body time to adjust following exercise. Stretching helps to prevent muscle soreness and assists recovery throughout the day. Hold stretches for at least 30 seconds while breathing deeply and relaxing the areas you are stretching.
- Re-Hydrate: Continue to replenish fluids for the remainder of the day. Instead of sugary drinks, try adding fruit or fresh mint to your water. To restore electrolytes and minerals lost during exercise, try coconut water.
- Re-Fuel: Restoring all three macronutrients will help prepare you for another day of activity. Carbohydrates will replace depleted glycogen stores, protein will help to repair and strengthen muscle tissue and fats will build new cell membranes and hormones.
- Rest, Recover, and Rebuild: It is not just physical activity that makes us stronger and healthier. Rest and relaxation after exercise allows our immune systems to heal our bodies and repair damaged tissues.
Breanna Walker, BKin is an Exercise Therapist at InspireHealth in Vancouver. Breanna has seen first-hand the effect an empowering and supportive environment can have on the healing process.As an Exercise Therapist, she supports people with a cancer diagnosis to incorporate appropriate exercise routines into their daily life. She leads several exercise classes multiple times per week and teach gentle and restorative yoga classes open to patient and support members. Breanna also is one of our pole walkers, pictured above.