Fueling for exercise


There has been a shift towards finding that perfect way to move our bodies as we found ourselves in and out of lockdowns, and exploring different ways to feel good and improve our health especially our mental health. Some of us once were gym junkies, now loving our virtual Pilates class where we can simply roll out of bed straight onto the mat at 6am, or maybe switching the yoga studio for longer walks in the sunshine and fresh air. Or maybe your needs have changed moving into a new life stage and running 10kms everyday no longer serves your joints, and more weight bearing exercise does?

Everything happens for a reason right? Whatever movement we gravitated towards, our exercise habits have changed and so have our attitudes towards health – big pat on the back for us! This isn’t about being the latest trend, it’s just about adapting and listening to our bodies. What we needed to be doing all along!

Pushing our bodies beyond its limits, without supplying it with sufficient energy is old news and we now know, is not going to get you closer to your goals.  In fact, at a certain point it actually starts to work against you especially if you’re running on stress hormones for energy. In that case you start to stagnate and head towards total exhaustion and low-grade inflammation.

Research has shown that low intensity aerobic exercise using up to 60% of maximum effort effectively burns carbohydrates, then proteins followed by fats as fuel to which there is no limit on how long you can go for.

OR if you are a HIIT type of gal this moves you into a different pathway called the Lactate pathway. This is where at 60% - 90% intensity you start to use carbohydrate through a process called glycolysis and producing a waste product called lactic acid. At this level of intensity your workout should last from 10-30mins to get the most out of your workout.

No matter what level you like to train at, ALL bodies need fuel to burn and there are better ways to do this than others:

  1. Hydration is the most obvious one, as you replace fluids lost during sweating, help regulate your body temperature, flush toxins, and replenish electrolytes.
  2. Eat BEFORE you train: This makes sense why? Because if you’re literally running on empty you may not feel like you can smash out the best workout and feel muscle fatigue quicker. Its not a hard and fast rule and training fasted is totally doable if you’re exercising for less than an hour. Carbs are an important option for short lived fuel AND also for recovery as we need to replace those glycogen stores. Try something complex like wholegrains, a piece of fruit, yogurt, or starchy veggies.
  3. Protein: Not all protein powders are created equal. Be sure to choose a quality product that’s free from crazy amounts of sugar, and ingredients that resemble the powerball draw. OR you can just eat whole foods that works too! Legumes, nuts & seeds, lean organic poultry, beans or tofu are all good lean sources of protein with all the essential amino acids needed to repair and rebuild your tired muscles.

As well as focusing on your macros, here are some of the most important nutrients the body requires for exercise and recovery:

CoQ10: Cellular energy production, mitochondrial function, antioxidant.

Curcumin: Post workout anti-inflammatory, and immune modulator.

Withania: Adaptogen, supports the adrenals, promotes energy, and impact of physical stress on the body.

Collagen: Accounts for approximately 30% of body protein, heal connective tissue, good for mobility of joints, strengthen ligaments, tendons, as well as bone and muscle structure.

Magnesium: Functions as an electrolyte, needed for energy production, as a cofactor for enzymes, for muscle contraction as well as cardiac function.

B12: Needed for red blood cells and cellular energy.

Carnitine: Needed for fatty acid metabolism.





DFH Webinar: “An Integrative Approach to Sports Performance and Nutrition”, presented by Kira Sutherland, viewed May 2021.

Cleveland Clinic article https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-best-ways-to-fuel-your-workouts-might-surprise-you/, viewed 25th Jan, 2022.