Sustenance, supplements and sleep

Fruit smoothie bowls with nuts are good breakfast options.

Now that you have started to move by walking/running daily, it’s time to focus on nutrition. Shaheem Laattoe, personal trainer, who lost weight through exercise and nutrition, shared some tips with ROSHAN ABRAHAMS on the importance of eating the right food for muscle recovery, muscle strengthening and getting enough sleep.

When one is new to exercise, the achiness that comes on two or three days after a hard workout is known as delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. While soreness can happen to anyone who does a workout their muscles aren’t used to (even seasoned gym-goers), it can feel particularly jarring when your body is totally new to exercise.

Shaheem maintains that if you have enough protein in your diet it will help with muscle recovery. “To help muscle soreness or stiff muscles from workouts, L Glutamine would be good to have as a supplement. (Glutamine is an amino acid that supports repair and regeneration of muscle tissue).

“To help with better recovery, it’s best that you consume a diet that’s high in protein. If you aren’t getting enough protein from your diet, a protein shake could be a good addition to your supplements.”

He mentioned that high protein types of food such as eggs, chicken, fish, lean meats for example steak, aids muscle recovery. “If you don’t eat meat, look at quinoa, peas, beans and lentils to increase your protein intake. Eating a high-protein diet gives your body the building blocks (amino acids) to help with recovery, not just for muscles, but hair, skin, nails, etc as well.”

Shaheem said when athletes want to strengthen their muscles they can supplement with creatine monohydrate “which is a safe product to use for strengthening muscles (creatine is a chemical found naturally in the body. It’ also in red meat and seafood. It is often used to improve exercise performance and muscle mass).”

Protein pancakes can fill you up for the morning.

When asked what Shaheem eats before and after exercise, he said: “Having oats for breakfast or a pre-workout meal can be useful as it’s a complex carbohydrate (such as fibre, and starch) meaning it breaks down in phases, unlike white bread or a high glycemic carb for example, that’s quicker releasing (The glycemic response to a food or meal is the effect that food or meal has on blood sugar-glucose levels after consumption).”

He said he makes his breakfasts interesting and fun. “When I do have breakfast, I have oats and enjoy making it interesting by adding two dates, cinnamon, chopped up almonds and a drizzle of honey.”

Shaheem highlighted whether it’s important to eat breakfast or not. “Depending if I am going to run a long distance, like 20km or more, I will have breakfast that will be suited to fuel my run.

“Most of the time if I work out at the gym during the week I won’t have a meal before I work out, because I see clients early in the morning, so I do fast because it’s more convenient and I will have my first meal at 12. After a workout, I will usually have a protein shake, and a meal made up of eggs, whether it be boiled eggs and a slice of bread or an omelette. Other meals include chicken fillet, boiled potato and/or rice.”

He said he prepares his meals the night before.

Shaheem said while some people are fine eating before a workout, others prefer not to. “Some do intermittent fasting and have their first meal by lunch, essentially skipping the calories of breakfast and tea time, which could help with weight loss, if that’s your goal. There’s no real right or wrong way. Find what works for you. If you want to lose weight, eat less calories. If you want to gain weight, eat a surplus of calories and make certain your macronutrients (protein, carbs, fats) are in line with the goals you want to achieve.”

He said he does not eat in a calorie deficit (you create a calorie deficit when you take in fewer calories than you burn). “I don’t eat in a calorie deficit, I eat balanced meals, but the majority of my meal is protein-based, keeping the overall calories low. I will, however, adjust my meals accordingly depending on my goals. If it’s a running goal, I will increase calories and various types of food groups. If it’s summer for example and I want to feel better about myself as I will be heading to the beach, I will reduce my calories. There are many apps that you can use to track your calories.”

When it comes to resting your active body, Shaheem said sleep is a necessity. “Sleep is very important to help your body recover. Ideally you should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep, but everyone’s different and everyone differs with the amount of sleep they are comfortable with, to function optimally the next day. I try to go to bed at 10pm every night.”

When asked how important it is to hydrate especially when you are active, and if energy drinks are advisable, Shaheem said: “Drinking water is always good. It keeps you hydrated. I would prefer to have black coffee if I need some energy/caffeine, because many energy drinks are filled with sugar.”

While the right food can nurture and the wrong food can be detrimental to one’s health, Shaheem echoed a quote by Ann Wigmore: “The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”

• People with pre-existing medical conditions should consult with a family physician before starting any exercise programme.