1. Omega-3 fatty acids
When paired with exercise, omega-3 fatty acids may assist with fat burning, says PhD-qualified nutritionist Joanna McMillan Price in her co-authored book, Star Foods: “This was shown in a recent Australian study that reported a surprise result where the combination of a fish oil supplement combined with exercise resulted in a 5 per cent loss of body fat.”
Tip: When you boost your dietary omega-3 fatty acid intake, make sure you’re not simultaneously upping your omega-6 fatty acid intake by too much, advises McMillan Price – this will limit your ability to absorb the omega-3 fatty acids. Cook with a monounsaturated fat such as olive oil (rather than polyunsaturated fat like sunflower oil), for instance.
Arguably the most essential player for gym junkies, carbs break down into glycogen, which is stored in the muscles and used as the body’s number one source of fuel when you’re exercising. The equation is simple: the more you work out, the more carbs you need.
“Think of fat as the tortoise- the slow steady burner that can run for a long time but not go very fast. Glucose, on the other hand, is the hare – it can produce a lot of energy very quickly but without refuelling will run out pretty quickly, “ says McMillan Price.
Tip: For endurance events, choose unrefined grains such as oats and brown rice. These are high in slow-releasing carbs which feed the muscles at a steady pace.
Protein is like the physiotherapist of the food world: it repairs body cells and is critical for their growth and formation. Protein also helps your body make hormones, antibodies and enzymes.
It’s recommended that endurance athletes eat between 1.2 and 1.4 g of protein per kilo of body weight per day, and that those into weight-bearing exercise aim for between 1.4 and 1.8 g per kilo of body weight per day.
Tip: Top sources of protein include lean meat, chicken, fish, dairy, pulses, nuts, soya beans and seeds.
4. Fruit and veggies
Fresh market produce is jam-packed with vitamins and minerals, which help you perform at your peak and get the most from your fitness sessions. When exercising, your body naturally produces free-radicals, which the antioxidants in fruit and veg help counteract. If you’re working out frequently, shoot for between five and seven serves per day.
Tip: Eat at least one serving of fruit with your brekky, and to max out the amount of nutrients you’re getting, snack on fruits of every colour throughout the day, advises accredited practicing dietitian Sue Radd in The Breakfast Book: “Try berries, peaches, oranges and pears, depending what’s in season.”
References available on request