How to Use Food to Increase Your Stamina

Sometimes you really have to dig deep and give it your all when it comes to making it through a challenging activity – whether that be a 5km, marathon, spin class or just making it up the stairs to your flat when the lift is out of order!

“A number of factors contribute to success in sport, and diet is a key component – Beck, Thomson, Swift and von Hurst, 2015”.

Food intake can be the difference between making it over the hypothetical finish line or falling at the final hurdle! 

We’re going to discuss the impact food can have on your stamina and the ways you may be able to use food to increase stamina.

Firstly, what is stamina?

Stamina is the ability to sustain prolonged physical or mental effort (2). It can also be thought of as the amount of time that a given muscle or group of muscles can perform at or near-maximum capacity.

It is very important when it comes to exercise as it has a direct impact on sporting performance, especially during events/ competitions. It can provide a competitive advantage if you are able to continue performing at a high standard for longer periods of time than your competitors.

What factors can impact stamina?

  • Food intake
  • Exercise frequency and intensity – training regime
  • Sport-specific training
  • Hydration 
  • Sleep

What is the link between food and stamina?

It is widely accepted that calories provide the body with the energy and nutrients it requires to function. A calorie is a measure of energy, referring to “the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water by 1 °C”.

Protein and carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, whereas fat contains 9 calories per gram, as stated, making it more energy-dense.

As a result, suitable energy intake is a crucial consideration when it comes to supporting day to day activity and for the focus of this piece – exercise performance.

In addition, consuming a diet composed of appropriate quantities of carbohydrates, protein and fat (depending on your goal) will keep you on track and performing at your best. 

Physical activity is demanding on your body. Therefore, you must ensure you are fuelling correctly both beforehand, to support performance and afterwards to aid with the recovery process. All in all, this will help towards giving you the stamina to power through your training sessions and over the finish line!

If you do not eat enough to support your activity levels, this will catch up with you pretty quickly! You will likely see negative effects on both your physical and mental energy levels. This will translate into your daily life, making things like getting up in the morning or getting through a chaotic day at work 10x harder. 

Further, it will then begin to negatively impact your training performance over time. You will probably fatigue far quicker and notice you are not able to train at the same intensity nor for as long as you used to.

How can you use food to increase your stamina?

Stamina is all about fueling our bodies correctly for the work they are carrying out. 

Therefore there are a number of considerations to give note to:

  • Consume enough calories – this will come down to factors including weight, height, age, gender, daily activity, exercise frequency and overall goal. It is important to ensure you are consuming an amount personalised to your needs and overall goal.
  • Eat appropriately in the lead-up, during (if required) and afterwards – this will help you to get the most out of all sessions and maximise your potential. 
  • Eat enough protein – proteins are primarily functional and structural components within each cell of the body and so are required for growth and repair. Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of your muscles. In their absence, it would be impossible to build, repair or maintain muscle mass.
  • Eat an appropriate amount of carbohydrates for your activity level – Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy, required for brain and organ function, as well as physical activity. Without carbohydrates, your body struggles to function properly and may feel fatigued. Furthermore, when you do not obtain enough carbohydrates your body reverts to other sources of fuel such as protein, which is far from ideal.
  • Don’t forget about fat intake – It is needed as an energy source, to provide the body with essential fatty acids (dietary fats that are vital for growth and cell functions but cannot be synthesised by the body), to allow for optimal functioning of nerves and the brain, assist in the production of hormones and are essential for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K – all of which in turn can be linked to performance. 
  • Eat a variety of brightly coloured veggies – not only will this make your meal more appealing to the eye, but it will also increase the micronutrient profile of your plate. Each micronutrient has a different purpose within the body. Micronutrient deficiencies result in a plethora of unwanted symptoms including fatigue, muscle cramps and poor appetite, which can impact your stamina.
  • Minimise things that could impair your stamina –  these include things such as alcohol and junk food. We are not saying both of these are off-limits entirely, but I would typically advise you to consume them in moderation.

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In order to progress towards your exercise goals, it is important to give not only your training regime but also your dietary intake careful thought. This will enable you to ensure you are supporting your body in the best way possible. It will also help give you the ability to sustain extended periods of physical or mental effort and maximise your potential!

If you would like to discuss your current fitness goals and discuss if your nutrition could be tailored to support it, please contact support@freshfitnessfood.com or book in for a call here to speak to a Nutritionist. Or if you’re ready to get started, us code BLOG50 for £50 off a 5-day trial and start building your stamina today.

References

  1. Beck, K., Thomson, J., Swift, R. and von Hurst, P., 2015. Role of nutrition in performance enhancement and postexercise recovery. Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, p.259.
  2. Merriam-webster.com. 2021. Definition of STAMINA. [online] Available at: <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stamina> [Accessed 14 July 2021].
Georgia Head

Published by Georgia Head

In her teenage years, a love of food and rowing led Georgia into this field as she wanted to know how to optimise performance through nutrition. With a BSc in Nutrition and an MSc in Sports and Exercise Nutrition, she has the skill set to help you track towards your goals and maximise your potential.

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