Recent months may have kept us apart, but they have also brought us together. As the nation unites in sharing banana bread recipes and having a go at a TikTok challenge (ask the kids), many of us have also been embracing exercise to keep us fit and healthy. Star of the show has been Body Coach Joe Wicks, whose weekday workouts have been watched by millions on YouTube, from tiny tots to grandmas and grandads. You don’t need special equipment or a large space. And while it’s primarily aimed at children currently missing their PE lessons at school, it’s become an instant hit with all ages.
Keeping fit has become even more challenging these past few months, as gyms remain closed and weekly fitness classes are cancelled. But it’s so important to stay mobile, get the heart pumping and lift those knees. As well as Joe’s 9am live weekday sessions, there are plenty of other classes and workouts online. You can also enjoy outdoor activities such as golf, tennis or basketball with your own household or one other person while staying 2m apart. And you can exercise outside as many times a day as you want! So now there’s no excuse to sit on that sofa watching Netflix box sets all day.
Food for thought
As well as getting regular exercise, it’s also important to eat the right foods to give you energy. If you are planning to join Joe Wicks at 9am for his weekday workout, make sure you eat breakfast an hour before. That goes for any morning session. But if you prefer to get your exercise done and dusted first thing, try to have a light snack or a drink beforehand. Even if you’re not ready for a proper breakfast, your body still needs fuel. And doing those lunges and jumps on an empty stomach might just leave you feeling lightheaded and sluggish rather than rejuvenated and full of beans. After you’ve finished, try to eat within 30 to 45 minutes as your body now needs to rebuild its energy stores. The sooner you can eat after exercising, the better.
What to eat
The type of training you take on will also influence the type of food you need to eat. Anyone doing cardio activities such as running, and cycling should be consuming more carbohydrates and some protein. While those on resistance training that improves muscular strength and endurance need fewer carbs and more protein. Fruit and oats are a good choice pre-workout while post-exercise eats should ideally combine carbs (pulses, wholemeal bread and rice or sweet potato) and protein (eggs, yoghurt, tofu, oily fish or chicken). Remember to stay hydrated throughout. Our bodies need water during a workout to speed up recovery afterwards. Aim to drink at least eight ounces every 15 minutes and more if you are sweating heavily.
Six of the best foods for workouts and recovery
A fantastic source of fibre and carbohydrates. Oats are full of essential vitamins and minerals. They are digested at a slow pace thanks to the presence of beta glucan fibre. Beta glucan is also linked to improving cholesterol levels and boosting heart health. So eat before a workout and they will help to maximise energy levels during and after exercise.
Rich in healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, eggs allow worn muscles a speedy recovery. Eat them whole or just the egg whites if you’re concerned about cholesterol. If you have a steam oven, you can cook eggs and porridge at the same time. Place eggs in a perforated tray and the oats in a cereal bowl with double the liquid and cook on 100˚C for six minutes. To cook just eggs, check the automatic programme and select how you want them done. Check out our guide to the perfect slow cooked egg here
Omega 3-rich fish such as salmon, trout, sardines or mackerel help with muscle soreness after resistance training. This is because the Omega 3s work their way into muscle cells, reducing inflammation caused by exercise and weight lifting.
Eating carbohydrate-rich foods can help lessen the drop in your immune system that may happen after intense exercise. And what’s more, any carbs consumed after a workout are more likely to be used as energy rather than stored as fat. Why not have a go at making our Beetroot, Sweet Potato and Parsnip Crisps for a post-workout snack here Alternatively, thinly slice a sweet potato, brush with olive oil and dehydrate on the highest setting in the warming drawer for two or three hours.
Loaded with protein and fibre, quinoa is a nutritious addition to any diet. Containing plant compounds and packed with all the essential amino acids, it’s a perfect ingredient for vegan or gluten-free recipes.
Rich in potassium and carbohydrates, bananas are an ideal snack after exercising. Potassium is good for the heart and blood pressure and they provide a good source of vitamin C too. There’s also manganese, great for the skin, as well as aiding digestion and giving you energy. Just take care to avoid high sugar banana smoothies.
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