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Using Food to Improve Fitness

Using Food to Improve Fitness

Many of us are either focused on aerobic activity or weight lifting and resistance training. But for fitness do you need both? In my opinion doing both is important.

How can we maximize the benefits of both?

Performing both aerobic activity and strength training in one day is one way to regain and maintain your health. It will improve your mood and will help you lose weight.

Yes it sounds like a lot, but it will save you money and time in the long run. It comes as no surprise then, that nutrition is as important to fitness as exercise. Read on to discover proven foods for fitness.

In an awesome study out of the UK, a group discusses what they discovered about nutrition and how it relates to health. Their study discusses recommendations for those who want to maximize their strength and endurance capabilities. While exercising twice a day may seem extreme it may be just the change you need. Clearly nutrition and fitness go hand in hand.

This study suggests that certain foods and supplements support health (strength and endurance) when taken at certain times. These supplements are readily available and can be incorporated into a health regime easily.

Strength Training and Aerobic Training

Like I said previously, fitness for most of us includes either aerobic activity or strength training. It is important to note that these two activities provide different benefits. Aerobic activity will increase endurance and not our strength. Additionally, resistance training will increase your strength but won’t improve your endurance.

As a matter of fact, this study suggests that combining the two will result in blunted strength gains. They discovered that this is due to muscular changes, but stay with me. Although the strength decreases, overall fitness increases, and that is the goal.  This is important because at middle age our bodies are not getting any younger.

When and What to Eat

The study investigated the timing and types of food and supplements on the muscle changes and arrived at some easy to follow additions to improve the body at the cellular level. As I see it, we can easily ensure that we eat the proper food for fitness with some planning.

Protein for Muscles

It is common knowledge that protein is an essential part of healthy diet. Additionally, if you are performing both aerobic and resistance training in the same day your protein needs may be increased. If you are on a weight loss diet, which means a reduced energy diet, additional protein will be necessary to maintain lean muscle mass. This study recommends additional protein is needed to ensure that the muscle building phase has enough protein to do so.

In this study the protein requirements for concurrent and extensive training are approximately 1.2 to 1.7 grams protein/kg/day. This is high because this study was looking at elite athletes. However, for the regular mid-life person performing endurance and resistance training can use .8-1.0 grams protein/kg/day and monitor their lean muscle mass on the Tanita Scale. If the muscle mass is dropping then additional protein is easily added.

When to Eat Protein?

The timing of food for fitness is important to know. This group suggests that consuming protein during training is a good idea when there is a long resistance training session following an endurance session. This will help rebuild the muscle.

Eating protein after the exercise will help with muscle building. It was explained that protein is more readily used to build muscles for up to 24 hours after resistance training.

Carbohydrates for Energy

Foods for fitness include carbohydrates. I always recommend foods in their most natural state. Carbohydrates provide the cells with glycogen which is the fuel for the cells. This study explains that a combination of protein and carbohydrate are beneficial for those who are doing two work outs a day in order to maintain glycogen stores in the cells.

However for exercise that is brief, that is less than one hour the body will benefit from additional carbohydrates and fluid only rather than protein.

Refueling the body with high amounts of carbohydrate containing foods has been shown to limit the body’s ability to repair itself after long endurance training. Whereas, refueling with protein supports muscle building.

Nitric Oxide Feeds the Muscles

Nitric oxide is an important component of endurance and strength. This regulates exercise performance by modulating muscle metabolism. It modulates blood flow, glucose and fatty acid use, and other vascular and cellular functions.

Nitric oxide supplements are available at your local fitness stores. There is also a natural way to produce NO within the body using the Nitric Oxide Dump.

Omega 3 Supplements for Strength

Omega 3 fish oil is a well-known supplement and this study again supports this easily available supplement.  Omega 3 fish oil is a fatty acid that is anti-inflammatory. This study revealed clear improvement in strength for women doing resistance training who took two grams of fish oil per day. Most supplements provide 1000mg (1 gram) per dose, so this is two doses per day.

Creatine for Performance

Creatine is a supplement that I was not fond of, and still recommend it with some hesitation for mid-life people. My best advice is to use it wih caution. Creatine is a well-known and well-studied performance enhancing supplement. It is beneficial in both resistance/strength and endurance training. Its main action on the body is to restore energy within the cells; additionally it reduces fatigue by affecting how quickly metabolic acidosis occurs in the cells. Creative supplements increase strength when used with resistance training. This study supports the use of high dose creatine (most creatine supplements will be considered high dose).

Key Take Aways:

In conclusion, this study demonstrates that food and supplements are beneficial for athletes who perform both resistance training and endurance training. As we age both of these types of exercises are important to maintain health and fitness.

I believe that using these principles to improve strength and endurance for the general population can improve health.  Timing of the food and supplements with regards to the exercise seems to be important. Timing of the activity is important for health as well. This study recommended that the endurance training be completed in the morning during the fasted state. Exercising during the fasted state promotes the many significant benefits within the body that are beyond the scope of this post. In addition, using NO supplements, Omega 3 fish oil and creatine may improve your training and your recovery.


Protein is key to supporting healthy muscle during frequent exercise.

Carbohydrates combined with protein may be better than high carbohydrate replenishment during frequent exercise.

Supplements like Nitric Oxide daily, Omega 3 fish oil daily and pre-workout creatine can be useful when used correctly.

If you find some of this confusing…no worries…I have written an easy to read guide that can help you navigate through the myriad of programs available. Order my book, The Second Chance at Health-Learn to Love Active Living and Clean Eating today to begin your journey to doing two-a-day work outs for fun.

Reference:  European Journal of Sport Science, 2014


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