Here at MoveMe we have a panel of qualified experts who can answer your questions about being active (see recent questions asked by others).
Wondering what shoes to buy? Noticed a new niggle in your knee? Confused about what you should eat before you exercise? Whatever it is that you want to know, you can ask our resident physiotherapist, nutritionist or personal trainer; you can even choose whether to receive a private response or have your query and the answer posted for all to see. For physiotherapy and nutrition questions we call on our colleagues at the University of Otago.
Question: Are the minerals in sports drinks helpful for recovery or is water just as good? And should I drink them every day or just after training?
Answer: Sports drinks include the electrolytes sodium and potassium. Sodium-containing beverages can encourage fluid intake after exercise by driving the thirst mechanism. What this means is that the slightly salty taste of sports drinks can encourage you to drink more than if it was just plain water. Sodium also increases fluid absorption and retention, so the fluid that you drink is more likely to stay in your body to replace sweat losses from exercise, rather than being excreted as urine. Sports drinks may also help with salt replacement for athletes who are heavy or salty sweaters. Most commercial sports drinks contain sodium in the range of 10-25mmol/L. The addition of potassium to sports drinks is beneficial to assist with muscle contraction during exercise. How much fluid and sodium you need to replace after exercise is determined by the duration, intensity and type of exercise and of course by the environmental conditions. If it is a hot humid day you will sweat much more that if it is a cool day. To meet all recovery goals, the ingestion of sports drinks should be complimented with other foods and fluids that provide additional carbohydrate, protein, and other nutrients essential for recovery. Water is suitable for low intensity or short duration (less than 45 mins) exercise, or in addition to sports drinks. Alternatively foods that contain sodium can be consumed with recovery fluids to ensure adequate electrolyte intake.
Sports drinks are specifically formulated to assist with fluid intake before, during and after exercise. Water or other low calorie beverages are all that is necessary to maintain fluid balance outside of training. Remember sports drinks also contain energy in the form of carbohydrate which is useful to consume in the post-exercise period to replenish muscle glycogen stores. However, outside of exercise it would be wiser to consume this additional energy as part of whole foods which contain other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fibre etc and not just carbohydrate energy. In addition, athletes who use large quantities of sports drinks for prolonged periods should pay extra attention to dental hygiene. The acids present in foods and fluids such as sports drinks, fruit juice, soft drink, wine, beer, tea and coffee are one of the factors that have been linked to tooth enamel erosion. It is best therefore to limit the use of sports drinks to the situations they have been designed for ie before, during and/or after exercise, rather than using them everyday.
Question: Within the last 6 months I have joined the gym. Due to my work and personal situations, little and often seems to be fit my situation best and I go 4 times a week, for 30 mins at a time approx. I try and work as hard as I can for that time. I’m wondering if it might be better for me to lengthen my workouts and do them less often. Advice?
Answer: This is a question that I would frequently get asked. Do I do 3 – 4 short hard sessions or do I do 1 – 2 longer easy sessions? It really depends on what you are training for. There is no right answer to what you should be doing. If you are training for a marathon then this would not be enough, if you are training to lose weight then this would be plenty. The problem with doing 4 hard sessions is that the risk of injury is higher and you will find that you will get fatigued a lot easier. I would say that if you have only a small amount of time available to train then carry on with your 4 x 30 minute sessions but perhaps mix them up a little. Cardio session one day, circuit session another, weights another day etc. Perhaps in your holidays you could do some longer sessions. There has been a study done on long distance runners, over 12 weeks one group performed 5 x 1 hour easy sessions per week while the other performed 3 x 20 minute hard sessions. In the final test both groups performed equally. The best thing for your body is change, it adapts very easily to exercise and changing around what you do stimulates it to keep working harder. If you find that you are getting fatigued then drop one of your sessions for one week or do a recovery session.
Question: Can you please advise what is the best type of yoghurt to be eating as there is a lot of conflicting messages about fat free (or 97% fat free) being better than full fat and on the other side of the coin that full fat is better due to sugar content, additives etc. Also is Greek Yoghurt better than either of these options?
Answer: Yoghurt is a good food in that it supplies calcium and many essential B vitamins. If you have no special dietary needs then choose the yoghurt that you like. If you are ‘counting calories’ then read the label carefully and choose the yoghurt with the lowest fat content. This is because fat supplies twice as many calories as carbohydrate ( per gram) and so the lowest fat yoghurt will provide weight for weight the least calories. Greek yoghurts tend to be higher in fat ( therefore creamier ) than other yoghurts. So you would not choose them if you were calorie counting. When it comes to sugar in yoghurt there are two things to note. Firstly if there is no added sugar it will be quite tart in flavour. Should you like this then all is well, but a little sugar does increase palatability. Secondly many yoghurts have fruit added which provides quite naturally some sugar. This is not different to taking a plain yoghurt yourself and eating it with the fruit of your choice, although you can choose less sweet fruits if you wish. Minimising sugar in the diet can be important if you are calorie counting as sugar provides calories but not other important nutrients. But sugar itself is not unsafe. So there is no ‘best’ yoghurt’. It depends on your needs .
Question: I have started doing more intensive interval and resistance circuits at the gym (x3 week) to tone up. I have found I am getting really tired and lacking in concentration. I eat a healthy, balanced diet but don’t think I am getting sufficient energy. Could you give any recommendations on what and how much I should be eating (and drinking) to maintain a healthy energy balance? I eat 3 main meals with a morning and afternoon snack.
Answer: If you are losing weight then you are not consuming sufficient energy. However, if your weight is stable then it is possibly a case of either inappropriate food choices, poor timing of intakes or inadequate hydration. You probably want to be eating something with carbohydrate beforehand i.e. cereal and milk. Make sure you are able to urinate and that it looks clear before exercise. The length of the exercise session will determine if you need any carbohydrate (i.e. sports drink or lollies) during it, but generally if it is less than 90 minutes or low intensity then you probably don’t need any carbohydrate. Fluid (water or sports drink) maybe be sipped throughout the exercise session although you don’t need to drink if the exercise session is less than an hour. Some suggest drinking could help you feel better during training. However, do not drink to excess. Following exercise you need a snack or meal with some protein and carbohydrate such as 500 mL milk or a tuna sandwich. Again continue drinking throughout the day, enough to keep your urine clear but not so much that you spend the rest of the day in the toilet. If you are tired you may want to get your iron levels checked by the doctor to make sure there is no underlying condition.