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The Nuts and Bolts of Nutrition

Written by Jennifer Starwarz, MSPT

Physical therapists are continually researching how to improve the lives of their patients.  Being healthy physically is important to your sports and recreation performance, however, we cannot overlook that wellness comes from the inside out. That’s why we have found focusing on nutrition can be instrumental in the improvement of your physical performance!  

The information populated on social platforms can be confusing with several different nutritional trends landing in your inbox.  We are outlining here the best nutritional advice from our healthcare providers to help you create a healthy food plan for yourself, especially if you’re an active adult who needs to meet the nutritional demands necessary for sports, recreation or regular exercise. 

1) First up is hydration.  It is generally recommended that active, healthy adults drink a minimum of ½ of their body weight in ounces of water.  Water is the best source of hydration, but in addition to that, drinking soda, sugary drinks, juices, coffee/tea or alcohol will also affect your body's hydration.  It’s best to eliminate these drinks and create a habit of drinking mostly water throughout the day. When you are expending considerable energy such as playing in a competitive sport, running, cycling or lifting weights, replenishing your body’s hydration with water plus electrolytes can help you avoid dehydration by replacing the electrolytes you’ll lose when you sweat. Electrolyte waters and coconut water are great sources of these minerals vs. sugary sports drinks.

2) Next, let's discuss carbohydrates.  Despite what you may hear in the headlines, carbohydrates should not be completely avoided, especially when you’re physically active. Carbohydrates are all about energy and are found in foods like fruit, vegetables and of course breads and pastas. We need carbohydrates because the body converts them into glucose which is our main source of energy.  However, some carbohydrates are healthier choices to eat than others. According to the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, the best source of carbohydrates are those that contain a high amount of fiber such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  More nutrients are also found in these foods and they take longer to break down into glucose. The unfavorable carbohydrates that we should be avoiding are refined (or processed) foods and usually have sugar added to them -- white bread, cookies, cakes.  Healthier carbs are brown rice, whole grain pasta, quinoa, beans and potatoes.

3) According to the Harvard Health Blog, the recommended amount of protein needed for an active adult is found by multiplying your weight in pounds by 0.36 to determine the amount you should eat in grams each day.  Proteins are the building blocks of our muscles and are required in muscular repair and recovery. Athletes need more protein than the average person to help repair our muscles after we add stress to them by running and strength training.  Good sources of protein can come from animal and plant based sources. Animal proteins are found in the form of chicken, turkey, beef, pork, fish, eggs and greek yogurt. Plant proteins are found in tofu, lentils, beans and quinoa, to name a few. Protein powders can also help you fill your nutritional gaps with protein and should always contain all 9 essential amino acids which will help with building muscle. Avoiding protein powders that contain artificial sweeteners and a high sugar content is also recommended, so it is important to read the nutritional labels closely!

Adding in fruits and vegetables to your day is also a nutritional necessity to meet your body's need for vitamins and minerals; plus, they aid in digestion and a "healthy gut".  They’re the magic bullet when keeping your weight in a healthy range, too! Even adding in a few servings per day can improve your health significantly.

Our body needs fuel to perform at its peak level.  Being aware of the foods that you eat can significantly improve your overall health and put you on track to living your best life!

Additional Resources:

Looking for a nutrition plan designed specifically for you?  Recovering from a chronic condition and interested in using food to aid in your recovery? Magna Physical Therapy is proud to partner with Hunter Bahre of Reformed Nutrition.  Hunter is a Registered Dietician Nutritionist and LEAP Therapist.  Click Here for more information. 

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