Regular exercise and physical activity help lower the risk of a number of chronic conditions, like diabetes and heart disease. Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, and Type 2 diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in Americans.
Heart disease and diabetes have similar risk factors, and many individuals have both chronic conditions. It’s important for people with diabetes to manage their condition daily, which impacts all aspects of life, even insurance rates and coverage. In fact, term insurance for a diabetic person can be more costly or more difficult to obtain.
Healthy eating is important for all men but especially important before and after sports and exercise. Active men need more calories and the right combination of nutrients to help fuel exercise and sports, but they also need good nutrition for proper recovery after exercise or sports.
There is nothing magical about what you should eat before, during, or after physical activity, but good nutrition can influence sports and exercise performance. Other important factors for optimal performance include sleep and recovery, hydration, training, genetics, and motivation.
Nutrition and training are also part of the foundation for living a healthy life and achieving optimal wellness.
General Healthy Eating Tips for Active Men
All men, regardless of the level of physical activity, should focus on a well-balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, beans, nuts, seeds, and low-fat dairy products. This will ensure that you are getting all of the nutrients needed for good health.
The right proportion of the three macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) will ensure you have the energy, endurance, strength, and power for sports and exercise.
Carbohydrates are the body’s and brain’s preferred source of fuel and should constitute 45-65% of your total daily calories. Carbohydrates are found in grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, soy products, and dairy.
Protein is important for building and repair of the body and especially for muscle tissue. Protein should be 10-35% of your total daily calories. Active individuals need 1.0 to 2.2 grams of protein daily for every kilogram of body weight. Protein is found in meats, poultry, fish, dairy, some vegetables, some grains, beans, nuts, and soy-based products.
Fat is also important for energy and helps with vitamin storage and transport, plus it provides cushioning around vital organs. Fat intake should be 20-35% of total daily calories. Fat is found in many foods, including oils, avocados, nuts, processed foods, and solid fats.
Some vitamins and minerals play more of a role during physical activity. Calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium are important for bone health. Vitamin D has many other important health functions for men, too. Potassium, sodium, and chloride are minerals that serve as electrolytes, which play a role in fluid balance and hydration.
Iron is a mineral that is important for transporting oxygen in red blood cells. B-complex vitamins are necessary for energy metabolism. Vitamin C and vitamin E are antioxidants that protect cells and prevent inflammation in the body.
Meals and snacks should be spread out throughout the day to give your body a continual supply of nutrients. For example, protein is better utilized by the body when eaten in separate doses as opposed to consuming a lot at one time.
Nutrition Before Exercise
The focus before exercise should be on getting plenty of carbohydrates, some protein, and plenty of water. The carbohydrates are needed to fuel your activities. Protein is not as necessary before activity because it is more important for repair and recovery, but eating protein before activity helps get a jump start on those processes.
If you are consuming a meal or snack a few hours before sports or exercise, your meal should contain plenty of carbohydrates and some protein. This meal should have complex carbohydrates that are digested more slowly than simple carbohydrates or sugars. A meal like a turkey sandwich, an apple, and some low-fat chocolate milk is full of the nutrients for general health as well as those needed for sports and exercise.
If you are eating a snack in the 30 to 60 minutes before activity, focus on quick-digesting simple carbohydrates. Applesauce, a sports drink, a small granola bar, a banana, or an English muffin are all great options.
A high-fiber or high-fat meal should be avoided prior to exercise or sports activities. Fat and fiber stay in the stomach longer and can cause abdominal upset during activity. Large meals should also be avoided before physical activity because they may cause stomach or abdominal distress.
Nutrition During Exercise
For physical activity lasting less than an hour, there is no need to consume any foods during exercise. The focus should be on consuming plenty of water to stay hydrated during physical activity.
You should be consuming a minimum of a few cups of water throughout the sport, exercise, or physical activity. Plain water is all that is needed if the exercise or activity lasts less than 45 minutes to an hour.
If your exercise or sports activity lasts more than an hour, you should plan for consuming carbohydrates during the activity. A sports drink like Gatorade or Powerade, a sports gel, a bar, or something similar will help provide the needed fuel for your exercise or sport. If you are exercising in hot weather and sweating a lot, a sports drink can be helpful to stay hydrated.
Nutrition After Exercise
After a workout or sporting event, the nutritional focus should be on recovery, which means replenishing the fuel used for activity and repairing and rebuilding muscle tissue after activity. Rehydrating with plenty of water and hydrating foods is also important.
One great post-workout drink is 1% chocolate milk which has the perfect ratio of carbohydrates and protein that help replenish, rebuild, and repair the body for recovery. It also has potassium, which is important for fluid balance, controlling blood pressure, and muscle contraction. It also contains vitamin D and calcium for strong bones and helps rehydrate.
Low-fat yogurt with fruit is another great post-workout snack. It has protein, carbohydrates, calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Yogurt is also a source of probiotics, which is important for the health of your gastrointestinal tract.
An optimal post-workout meal does not have to be anything special. It can be a well-balanced meal with carbohydrates and protein. A chicken burrito bowl with brown rice, vegetables, beans, and cheese is nutritious, tasty, and provides the necessary nutrients to help with recovery.
There are a number of other post-workout strategies like sleep that are important for muscle repairing and rebuilding after a workout, beyond just nutrition.
Supplements for Nutrition
Supplements are not necessary for optimal exercise, physical activity, and sports, but there are some with solid research that supports their use in enhancing sports performance.
Learn as much as you can about a supplement before you begin to use it. Educating yourself to find factual, supportive evidence is important when it comes to choosing the right supplements for good health.
Many men use protein supplements like protein shakes and powders before, during, or after a workout. These can help you meet your protein needs but are not required if you are getting adequate protein from meat, poultry, fish, beans, soy-based products, or dairy products.
There is no major benefit outside of helping meet your protein needs, but there is no harm in this either.
Creatine monohydrate is one of the most well-researched supplements when it comes to improving muscular fitness and increasing muscle mass. It also has benefits for recovery and neuroprotection (protecting the brain). Creatine is also very safe and has few side effects in healthy active individuals, as long as you are following the dosage recommendations.
Caffeine can be beneficial for any type of athlete from an endurance-trained individual to a resistance-trained athlete. Research supports caffeine use for improving focus, improving coordination, delaying fatigue, and enhancing the use of fat for fuel for activity.
Beta-alanine is a combination of amino acids that can help delay fatigue in high-intensity activities. The only side effect is tingling with no harmful effects when using this supplement.
Healthy Nutrition is Important
Healthy eating is important for providing the body with fuel for sports and exercise, as well as for optimal recovery after a workout.
The right mix and timing of meals and snacks can help active men get the nutrients needed for general health, but also for optimal sports and exercise.
This content is brought to you by Melissa Morris who writes for the life insurance comparison site, QuickQuote.com. She has an MS in exercise science, is an ACSM certified exercise physiologist, and an ISSN certified sports nutritionist.