We are continuing the winter theme here at U Perform to continue to help our U Perform family prepare and perform when the elements are against us – and when our training gets tough too! There’s simply no stopping Team U Perform!
The first thing to understand about exercising over the winter months is that it will actually demand far more energy than you probably realise as our body battles not only against the stress and strain of the exercise or activity itself, but also our external environment too. Not only does the volume and frequency of training increase over the winter months (generally), our body is also under constant pressure from the cold, dark, wind, rain… you get the gist.
It’s fair to say then that our body is going to be taking a battering over the next few months and in our humble opinion, optimising your diet and nutrition (remember these are two very different things) during this time can be the difference between keeping active comfortably and well, not doing so!
In this week’s blog we are going to be tackling all things winter nutrition to help you kick start your winter training in the best shape and sharing some of our top tips to help you optimise your overall health and performance.
But don’t forget if you have any top tips that you would like to share, drop us a comment down below or on social media so that everyone can benefit from them! The U Perform family loves sharing ideas, tips, tricks and encouraging each other to achieve their goals, whatever the weather!
Ok then, let’s get to work…
Our first tip is all about BALANCE. And by that we mean striving for a healthy, balanced diet is absolutely crucial for establishing an excellent foundation for health and performance. Now it goes without saying, having an optimal diet is always important as this quite simply provides our body the nutrients and energy it needs to survive essentially.
For active people though, having an optimal diet is even more important to help the body to both perform the activity in question and then crucially, recover from it. To achieve this, special considerations have to be made. Including the types, amounts and timing of certain foods and in some cases perhaps even the emittance of others.
It’s all too easy to reach for quick, simple but unfortunately nutrient-lacking snacks in lieu of a proper meal to fuel your training. So instead of your body having the nutrients and energy to perform at its best you’ll actually find it more difficult to complete workouts effectively, recover properly and make the improvements you deserve and have been working so hard for.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Keeping it simple, try and focus on nourishing your body with nutrient-dense foods at every meal and don’t be afraid to eat little and often throughout your day. This is actually very common as it allows you to avoid exercising too soon after a large meal for example.
Focusing on eating whole foods as opposed to processed is a great first step. As is consuming fruits, vegetables, grains, oats and lean meats and fish should your dietary choice allow them. The foods we eat (like the ones we’ve just mentioned above) make up our diet and the more varied and colourful, generally the better it is for your health!
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY?
Our nutrition on the other hand is what those foods are made up of and we’re going to go more into detail on that now…
Nutrition is the amount of protein, carbohydrates, fats, sugars, vitamins and minerals in each of our foods and it’s from here that we really start to understand why a balance between quality and quantity is absolutely crucial to help active people maintain energy and strength to perform and or compete to their potential.
There are a lot of foods that are naturally rich in important vitamins and minerals but as winter sets in access to them can be quite difficult and even when we do get our hands on them, the nutritional content is fairly limited. This is either because they are not in season or if they have had to travel a long way and a long time to get to your fruit bowl.
As a result, many of us will find it difficult (and this can be all year round for some) to eat enough quality fruits, vegetables and other sources of vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein; putting our health and our performance at risk.
But this is where nutritional supplements like ours really come into their own. Multivitamin and antioxidant supplements like our Active Balance and Active Berries offer a convenient way to ensure we fill in the nutritional gaps that our regular diet just can’t. This is nothing to be ashamed or turn your nose up at. Our individual dietary requirements, choices and even our appetite play a massive part in how we fuel our body for daily activity and exercise. So, finding what works for you is actually an incredible positive.
As it is colder outside, eating and drinking warm things is also a really easy way to give your body a helping hand in maintaining an optimal body temperature. Think soups, hot chocolate and any other wintery themed foods and drinks will do the trick. You deserve a treat anyway!
Hydration & Rehydration
What you might not know or might not have realised is that when it’s cold outside you will naturally lose the natural sensation or desire to take on fluids. A lot of this is down to perception too. It’s cold outside, therefore we don’t think we are sweating as much or at all, even though we still are (and sometimes more when we’re wearing lots of layers).
Getting on top of your hydration and rehydration is perhaps one of the most important nutritional considerations for an active person. When we exercise, our respiratory rate increases as we deliver more and more oxygen enriched blood to our muscles. As we do this, we are actually losing a considerable amount of water in the breath we exhale. This is because breathing in cold, dry air triggers your body to warm and humidify that air and as we exhale we expel water that we would otherwise need.
Here’s another fun fact about exercising in the cold… Cold weather increases our urine output (cold diuresis) as blood flow to the extremities is decreased and redirected to the organs at the core of our body. An increased core pressure is detected by the brain which then signals the kidneys to produce more urine.
This along with the false perception of sweat, leads a lot of people to stop taking on fluids entirely. To avoid having to navigate layer upon layer of warm clothing that stand in our way of answering nature’s calling.
A little tip for you to tackle this natural problem is to drink little and often. Studies show that drinking or sipping water and other fluids little and often actually helps your body to retain more of it and thus keeps you hydrated for longer and more effectively.
Lots of athletes also choose to supplement their fluids with electrolytes such as sodium and potassium to further support how our bodies are able to hydrate and rehydrate before, during and after exercise.
The dangers of dehydration are just as apparent in the cold as they are in the warm and therefore how we approach hydration and crucially rehydration in our daily lives and around physical activity can make a huge difference to our performance.
How we eat and drink also has massive implications on our overall immunity and when you consider that winter is a season rife with coughs, colds and other seasonal bugs, now more than ever it is absolutely critical to maintain and even in some cases bolster our immune function to maintain our health and performance.
Just think about it for a second. How many days or even weeks did you lose in previous winters from coughs, colds, flu or just feeling on the whole pretty rubbish? If it’s more than one or maybe two then here’s a few simple things you can do to support your immune system through nutrition alone.
First thing’s first. A healthy, balanced diet again is the perfect foundation for giving your immune system the best chance. But, everyone is different and so individual considerations may need to be made.
What a lot of people don’t realise is that exercise actually has a negative impact on your immune system (in the short term) due to an increase in the stress hormone cortisol. As we increase training volume, frequency and intensity our immune system therefore has less opportunity to rebalance itself almost; making us more susceptible to infections, especially upper respiratory tract infections.
There are number of nutrients that are linked quite heavily to proper immune function, such as: vitamins A, C, D, E, B6, B12, Folic Acid and Zinc.
Vitamin D is perhaps the most important of these as it plays a role in over 2000 body systems including the health and function of our immune system, muscles, heart and bones. It is unfortunate then that so many of us are actually deficient in Vitamin D throughout the year, not least in winter when our exposure to sunlight is severely limited. This is because the interaction between direct sunlight and our skin is actually the only method by which our body can produce sufficient Vitamin D on its own.
Vitamin D can be found in real foods but only in small amounts. So unless you have the appetite of a small family you will probably find it difficult to get enough through diet alone. This is exactly we scientists world over (and us) always recommend a Vitamin D supplement in the winter and in some cases year round to provide a quick and simple way to fill another nutritional gap as we mentioned earlier.
Supplements aren’t for everyone and questions surrounding the need for supplementation will always be present. However, we follow the science here at U Perform and know from research and experience that Vitamin D is just too important to miss out from your nutritional routine; whether it’s for health or performance. There are also few contraindications regarding the use of Vitamin D supplements.
That’s fancy way of saying that there are little to no reasons why you shouldn’t or can’t take a Vitamin D supplement. Therefore, in our opinion, supplementing daily with a high quality Vitamin D supplement like our Active Vitamin D3 is actually one of the best decisions you can make to optimise your health and performance this winter.
It’s also why, for the whole month of October we have been running a very special offer on our Active Vitamin D3.
At a time when Vitamin D is just so important, we are offering 3 for the price of 2. That’s a 3 month’s supply (taking you all the way into the New Year) for just £9.90.
Simply add 3 to your basket and get one of those absolutely FREE. (Discount applied automatically at checkout). Get yours now by clicking here!!!