According to experts and just about everyone on the planet, the surefire way to a healthy lifestyle is good diet and exercise. We hear it so much that it’s hard not to be weary of it, but like most clichés, it’s a cliché for a reason.
But, what does a good diet and increased exercise really do for our bodies? What’s the best way to fuel ourselves to feel healthy? It can all be so intimidating—where do you even start?
We spoke to Angela Leigh, Senior Director of Talent and Resident Nutrition Expert at Aaptiv, to learn more about the relationship between food and exercise, and how a better understanding of both can make you feel good inside and out.
IT’S ALL ABOUT ENERGY
Angela’s mantra? “Energy goes into your body, and energy goes out.” Food is essentially the energy fuel that your body runs on—so ultra-nutritious and whole foods fill up the tank and give you loads of energy, while an empty stomach or empty calories cause—you guessed it—low energy levels.
The best way to regulate those energy levels according to our expert? Exercise! Taking time for a workout in your schedule can help set the tone and regulate the rhythm of your day, alongside some other incredible benefits. You’re improving muscular and bone health, reducing your overall health risks. We all know exercise is an excellent mood-booster, and giving yourself the time and space to focus on a single task can be incredibly empowering. Plus, you might rest better too.
Think of it this way, when you’re maximizing the hours that you spend awake by moving your body and putting in work, you’re maximizing the hours that you unwind and relax, making for better, deeper sleep at night. More energy and deeper sleep go hand in hand.
WHAT’S ON THE MENU?
Diet! Dun dun dun. You can’t get moving throughout the day without properly fueling. What are the best ways to eat for exercise? Angela stresses that when it comes to food, it’s all about balance and making sure you get your even mix of carbs, proteins, and fats (the good-for-you ones in nuts and avocados!) for most meals.
First off, not all carbs are bad (shocking, but true). The not-so-great carbs you may be thinking of are found in a loaf of plain white processed bread, stripped of whole grains, fibers, and loaded up with sugar. Carbs aren’t good or evil, they’re simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are easy for your body to break down, so you’ll get some energy in a short, inconsistent burst. This isn’t always a negative; fruits, which are loaded with important vitamins and minerals, are also simple carbohydrates. Your body takes them in and burns them quickly. Complex carbohydrates take longer to process, so you get consistent bursts of energy that sustain you throughout the day. Some good examples of fiber-rich, complex carb-loaded foods are quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins (spooky and delish). Making sure you get your fair share of complex carbs is important for feeling energized longer, and simple carbohydrates aren’t so bad when there’s still nutritional value there.
When it comes to pre-workout foods, look for a meal that’s balanced in proteins and carbs for energy. Try combos like: whole grain bread with almond butter or your nut butter of choice, apples with nut butter, oats mixed with banana or some kind of protein, Greek yogurt, or lean meats like turkey.
When you’re recovering from exercise, try a meal that’s rich in protein. Protein helps kickstart the synthesis of muscle repair, so it’ll help take care of your body after you exercise. Turn to whatever your preferred source of protein is: meats, fish, lentils, beans, a tasty shake, etc. Maybe that’s in a tuna wrap, or a lentil bowl.
Also important enough to warrant its own paragraph: HYDRATE. If you think you’ve had enough water, drink some more. Stay hydrated!
The most important thing is that you listen to what your body needs when it needs it, and to get it moving however you like. Maybe you’re into walking it out on the treadmill, or stretching in Warrior 1.
We recommend Aaptiv, an audio fitness app with just about every form of guided workout you can think of, from yoga flows to guided jogs in a range of 10 to 30 minutes.
To see more of what Aaptiv has to offer (and to save 40% on a yearly membership), visit aaptiv.com/hungry
Want to add more healthy, convenient foods to your routine? Get started here.