Nutrition and recovery: what to consider

Some important advice

Encouraging millions of people around the UK to take the first step in their health journey, this year’s theme for National Fitness Day was ‘Your Health is for Life’, which aptly has a comprehensive focus on three key areas, one of them being nutrition and recovery.

When we think of being healthy and boosting our wellbeing, many people tend to think that this only relates to physical exercise, and how much of it we’re doing. When in reality, nutrition and recovery are just as important.

Encompassing a good balance of nutrition, exercise, and recovery, is a great stepping stone to better wellbeing, now and in the future.

Good nutrition can mean different things to different people. If you’re over 60, you may revolve much of your diet around foods that tackle age-related conditions, whereas foods that support bone and brain development will be a priority for younger children.

Having said this, good nutrition is necessary for everybody. The nutrients, vitamins, and minerals we consume reflects onto our overall health.

The NHS’ Eatwell Guide offers some collective guidance* for eating a balanced diet. It suggests people should try to:

  • eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day (to hit the 5 A Day target!)
  • base meals on higher fibre starchy foods, such as potatoes, bread, rice or pasta
  • have some dairy or dairy alternatives (e.g soya drinks)
  • eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein
  • choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat them in small amounts

Good nutrition doesn’t stop at food, hydration is just as if not even more important for our mind and bodies. Drinking enough water each day has a host of benefits. Good hydration helps metabolise stored fat, aid the absorption of nutrients, maintain healthy blood pressure, and cushion some of the most sensitive tissues in our body. It can even improve our skin! Aim for at least 6 to 8 glasses a day of fluids, and extra if you’re unwell.

You don’t have to achieve this balance with every meal, but try to get the balance right over a day or throughout a week.

Nutrition also plays a huge role in recovery. Making more mindful food choices is incredibly important when it comes to fuelling your body and allowing it to recover properly. Carbohydrates provide our body with energy – great for those who perform lots of high-intensity exercise or cardio. Protein-rich foods contribute to muscle and cell repair, which is essential for any diet. High-fibre and gut-friendly foods also offer benefits far beyond recovery.

Recovery is also something that should be championed by everybody. Just because you’re done working up a sweat doesn’t mean your workout is done!

Recovering well doesn’t have to include complex stretches or fancy ice baths, at a surface level it should include anything that helps to reduce muscle soreness, restore your vitality, and avoid injuries.

We suggest you experiment with:

  • taking 5-10 minutes during your cool-down period to stretch, allowing your heart rate to return to its normal rate and to decrease built-up muscle tension
  • prioritising relaxation with light exercise such as yoga, pilates, or even going for a stroll
  • drinking water to avoid dehydration and replace your water reserves
  • powering up with protein to aid muscle recovery
  • incorporating recovery into your workout plan

The benefits of nutrition, physical activity, and recovery should extend far beyond National Fitness Day. Your physical and mental health & wellbeing is for life!

*The Eatwell Guide does not apply to children under the age of 2 as they have different nutritional needs. Between the ages of 2 and 5 years, children should gradually move to eating the same foods as older children/adults in the proportions shown in the Eatwell Guide.

Sources: Healthy Ageing: The importance of nutrition for over 60s (Starts at 60) | Early Childhood Nutrition (UNICEF) | Life stages – Children (British Nutrition Foundation) | Eating a balanced diet (NHS) | Water, drinks and hydration (NHS) | The Eatwell Guide (NHS) | A Post-Workout Recovery Plan for Healthy Muscle Growth (Cleveland Clinic) | 11 Steps to Follow for a Post-Workout Routine That Gets Results (Healthline)

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