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As I walk more, and see the changing shape of my body, I am starting to eat healthier too. Apart from having a sweet tooth and weak when someone says to me “have another beer”, day to day I am trying to improve my choices when thinking about everyday meals.
I have enjoyed seeing the inches come off from round my belly, although I still have a long way to go to make me happier on that front. But I know that I am on my way to reaching a more acceptable shape that I would be happy with.
Exercising is only part of the battle in attaining good health, as well as achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. You also have to have the proper nutrition in order to maximize the results you get from walking. Just as you wouldn’t put cooking oil in your car instead of petrol and expect to get far, you need to put the right things into your body to enable you to walk without collapsing.
Research I have done tells me that to include super foods that are packed full of nutrients and antioxidants. One of the best super foods to eat before you go on a brisk walk is oats. I have started to eat porridge most mornings, and occasionally as a lunch alternative too. Oats have plenty of soluble fibre, which will help you to feel full (thus you don’t overeat and add needless calories). It also gives you energy for walking (thus maximizing the amount of calories you burn), and the final purpose is that it is easy to digest so it doesn’t weigh you down (and, thus, enables you to maximize the results of your workout).
If you want to add some additional protein to the oats, cook it in milk, almond milk, or soy milk. Another way to boost the nutritional value of this meal is to add fresh fruit and/or nuts, such as blueberries and walnuts. I do this by buying some small packs of dried fruit, similar packs of nuts and seeds, then mixing these in with a pack of plain porridge oats in a tin. That way I can easily scoop out the amount I need into a bowl each morning, cover with milk, and stick it in the microwave for about 90 seconds. Not only is it good for me but it also tastes great. I even add a dollop of honey on top sometimes as an added treat.
If porridge is not your thing, what other options are there? How about a poached egg on wholemeal toast? You can always add slices of avocado for some extra taste. If time doesn’t offer the possibility of this, then some yoghurt, granola and fruit could be a great alternative, and quick to make. Or how about a bagel with some banana, which has plenty of potassium.
During a long walk or day hike, it’s important to have something to keep you going. I have covered this elsewhere in greater detail, but my own favourite is to create a trail mix and take this with me. Having your own homemade trail mix can be a great way to keep you energized so that you can keep walking without losing momentum.
Create a homemade trail mix out of a whole grain cereal (such as Shredded Wheat), dried fruit (apricots, dates, cranberries, etc.), and nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.). Another good option are manufactured protein bars, which are made of nuts and dried fruit. Make sure you choose ones that are all-natural and have no added sugar. They’re already pre-packaged for you and come in an assortment of flavours if you choose to not create your own snack for your journey.
Of course if you are out walking for a day, then you will need to factor in lunch. Whilst you may be in a position to use a local cafe or restaurant (or of course pub), if you are out in the countryside then you will need to prepare something to take with you. It’s best to try to prepare something that contains proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
Such proteins that are suitable would be boiled eggs, beans, seeds, nuts, peanut butter, canned fish. Choose one or more of these and add some carbohydrates in the form of bread or bagels, pasta, couscous, new potatoes, or oatcakes. Then add a little fat in the form of avocados, olive oil, mayonnaise, or cream cheese.
If you are out for a long day, you should remember to eat little and often. Three square meals a day are good normally, but if you are walking for a long portion of the day then you need to keep your body fuelled.
You will need to keep hydrated, so take plenty of water with you. Again, I have covered this in greater detail here.
For a post-workout snack, you want to have a combination of protein and carbohydrates in order to make sure you are re-energized. One great option is to have some yogurt and fruit. It’s so easy to scoop out some yogurt from a pot (I like to have the large pots in the fridge as the small multi pack ones just aren’t enough for me), and add some tinned fruit or something from the fruit bowl.
Of course at some point soon after you will need to have a full meal after your walk. Research shows me that having a piece of baked fish (especially salmon) with some vegetables like broccoli or kale can be very beneficial as well. Personally this makes me shudder, as I don’t like fish!
Some of the best foods for walkers are quinoa, mushrooms, and lentils. Quinoa is a South American grain that can be used in many rice recipes, but quinoa has twice the protein and fibre as rice and other grains. In addition, it has much riboflavin, iron, and magnesium. Quinoa has become more common in recent years, as people are more willing to try different foods these days.
Mushrooms have selenium, potassium, fibre, and B vitamins. I love mushrooms and try to incorporate them into as many meals as possible. Lentils are similar to beans in both cooking time and health benefits. They have plenty of iron, folate, manganese, fibre, and protein. They make great fillers for stews and soups, so that you don’t need as many ingredients to make the meals substantial.
Some health experts believe that these nutrients help to slow down the aging process, which at my age (early 50’s, or as I like to say, very late 40’s) can only be a good thing.
As you can see, you have many healthy options to eat before and after your walk. The best foods are those that provide a combination of protein and carbohydrates to ensure maximum energy to use during your workout and after your workout. Be sure to include the foods above in your pre- and post-workout diet. You can burn the most calories during your workouts and have more energy to do other tasks after your workouts.
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