There’s just over a week to go before the Dubai Fitness Challenge ends, but don’t fret if you missed the bus this year. There are several other major events coming up over the winter from the Great Dubai Pulse Ride this Thursday to the Dubai Marathon in January — and there’s no reason you can’t prepare for them starting right now.
But exercise alone isn’t enough. An increasing number of studies indicate that what you eat is at least as important as how much you exercise.
Whether you’re training for an event, looking to lose weight or simply want to find your way back to health, it makes sense to monitor your overall food intake throughout the day, says Lauren Brush, a certified nutritionist and fitness professional in Dubai.
“Food is what fuels our body,” Brush tells Better Health. “When it comes to building the body you want, food is 80 per cent of the equation, while exercise is just 20 per cent. Truly effective training relies on a healthy nutrition plan and appropriate pre- and post-workout fuel. Our bodies perform the best when we eat clean, unprocessed foods, both physically and mentally.”
An individual’s calorie and nutrient intake can widely differ in response to the type and duration of training programmes.
Diet and fitness go hand in hand, agrees Farheen Dhinda, Clinical Dietician, Dubai Health Authority. “There is an irrefutable relationship between diet and exercise,” she says. “An individual’s calorie and nutrient intake can widely differ in response to the type and duration of training programmes. Since exercise increases the stress within biological systems, it is imperative to fuel as per the increased physiological demands an exercise regime or sports activity can impose on the body to gain maximum health benefits from it.”
But whether it’s training for an event or simply embracing a new fitness regime, it’s important to figure out what your goals are, what foods work for you, and act accordingly.
First up, it’s important to create a balanced nutritional plan full of proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, to ensure you stay consistent with your training and exercise, says Jamie Moore, Head of Training and Wellness at The J Club, a new holistic wellness centre at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai.
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel, while protein contributes towards muscle building and repair, and fats are essential to give your body energy and to support cell growth. So you’ll want to re-examine how many carbs you’re eating, and where you’re getting them from. “The ideal nutritional plan for events such as marathon runners or the Dubai 30x30 fitness challenge is a balanced plan with proteins, healthy fats, and most importantly, lots and lots of carbohydrates,” Moore says. “
There are so many types of carbohydrates — fruits like bananas, raisins, dates. Starchy carbs like potatoes, pasta, rice and many more. The benefit of carbohydrates is the ability to supply a constant fuel source to your working muscles. A healthy balanced nutritional plan will help you train harder and recover quicker.”
He suggests eating little and often every three hours to maintain healthy eating habits and to stimulate your metabolism throughout the day — and that includes pre- and post-workout meals (see box).
“If you can spread your calories out throughout the day and give yourself enough calories to maintain a good and steady blood sugar level, then you will reduce the urge to feel hungry. On the flip side if you don’t eat for a long time and your blood sugar naturally drops down, then that little bit of willpower we have can be hard to control once the hunger kicks in.”
The ideal nutritional plan for events such as marathon runners or the Dubai 30x30 fitness challenge is a balanced plan with proteins, healthy fats, and most importantly, lots and lots of carbohydrates.
Brush agrees. “If you are training for a marathon or taking part in the Fitness Challenge, it’s best to eat four to five small meals throughout the day with a focus on protein and healthy fats (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado) and, depending on the workout activity and intensity, unprocessed carbs such as oats, rice or sweet potatoes.”
No single solution
That said, there’s no single standardised nutrition template, particularly if you’ve got a goal in mind. Someone who wants to add 30 minutes of aerobics to their daily workout needs a different level of nutrition from another person looking to finish a demanding endurance event such as the Dubai marathon, Dhinda explains. “Ensure that all micronutrient needs like vitamins and minerals are met through balanced meals planned to prevent deficiencies. In addition, your macronutrient and calorie intake also depend on your age, gender, BMI, and daily activity levels. For more precise energy requirements and dietary advice, it is best to consult a registered dietician. Each person’s diet plan should be individualised in order to suit their training regime.”
That advice holds good whether you’re training for the Dubai Fitness Challenge or simply trying to stay healthy.