Food is the body’s fuel. Like automotive fuel, food comes in several different “grades.” Some are great for a quick burst of energy but the effect doesn’t last long. Others are better suited to increase stamina and maintain energy over a long period of time.

In this post, we’ll provide you an overview of certain foods and are known to boost stamina when consumed in right quantity and at right time of the day.

Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar
More and more people are becoming aware of the fact that there are different types of carbohydrates and they affect our bodies in different ways. For instance; the sudden rise and fall of blood sugar levels is caused by carbohydrates. Blood sugar is the immediately accessible energy that our body uses to fuel anything it is doing at a given moment, so it is very important for stamina.

However, higher level of blood sugar is not necessarily a good thing. This is because when the blood sugar levels remain high for a long time, the body takes steps to correct the issue. This leads to the production of a pulse of insulin, which causes the cells to take up sugar. When blood sugar is fairly high, the pulse of insulin is large; often larger than necessary. And when a lot of sugar is taken up as a result, it may temporarily cause the blood sugar levels to come down. Therefore the goal should be to maintain a steady, stable level of blood sugar instead of either of these extremes.

The Glycemic Index, or GI number, of a given carbohydrate food is a measure of how fast the food raises your blood sugar level. Lower numbers indicate slower rises in blood sugar.

Complex Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates are found in whole grains and other natural foods. They have lower GI numbers and release energy gradually instead of boosting blood sugar all at once. Most processed grains have higher GI numbers. Yet, there are some exceptions to the processed versus natural split as potatoes and parsnips are both high GI foods.

Some examples of low GI foods that would be suitable for a diet to increase stamina include:

  • Whole kernel grains
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Beans
  • Small seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, poppy, etc.)

Foods made with ground whole grain flours are better than those made with white flour, but tend to have a higher GI than the whole grains themselves. Foods to avoid include those that have very high GI numbers. Some common foods include:

  • Potatoes without peel
  • White rice (except basmati)
  • White bread
  • Almost everything made with white flour

Complete Meals
Our body digests carbohydrates; even the complex ones, faster than protein and fat. In order to maintain an extended release of energy, full meals that contain significant amounts of protein and good fats are recommended. This slows the rate of digestion and ensures that energy is released steadily.

Certain complex carbohydrates are a good source of protein themselves. Oatmeal and beans are examples of foods that are relatively high in both complex carbohydrates and protein. Adding a good fat to these foods makes a relatively completely meal.

Fiber is also implicated in slowing the release of energy from food to a more ideal speed. Oatmeal and beans are both full of fiber as well as complex carbohydrates and protein. However, it is also easy to make a meal with complex carbs, protein, good fat and fiber by simply combining a whole grain with a protein source, fat source, and vegetables.

When to Eat
Eating at the right time can be almost as important as eating the right thing. Some people find it hard to exercise with food in their stomach, which complicates things a bit. In general, many people find they have more stamina when they:

  • Eat within 3 hours prior to exercising
  • Eat ~ 300 calories within the hour before exercising
  • Refuel with an energy bar or a sports drink when exercising for more than an hour at a time
  • Drink plenty of water!

To conclude, it would be fair to say that every individual should start with understanding their body type and its composition. Then second would be to watch what they eat, know the right quantity and fix a time when it would benefit their health the most. By just being careful about these little things, we would do justice to out body and live an active and healthy life.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Michelle Holincheck, FNP