Category: Nutrition


BY: Angela Leach   /   DATE: April 2018

Roughly 60% of the human body is made up of water, which is a good indication of its importance for all bodily functions and this certainly does not exclude sporting performance. Did you know that just 1% dehydration can lead to a reduction in strength?  Learn the ins and outs of good hydration by reading on.


Many people fail to see the value of good hydration in their sports, until they have experienced the dehydration. Common symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness, headaches, mouth dryness and loss of coordination, which can severely impair performance with effects such as:

  • A reduction in physical and mental performance
  • Increase in heart rate and body temperature,
  • increased perception of how difficult the exercise feels
  • Impaired skill level
  • Increase the risk gastro-intestinal problems during and after exercise.



Day to day we need to make sure that we are meeting our fluid requirements. As a guide it is often recommended that we drink 6-8 glasses or 1.5-2l of water per day, but often relying on thirst is the best indicator because individual requirements vary. It is a good idea to fill a water bottle(s) in the mornings and keep it on your desk to drink during the course of the day. Although water should be our primary source of fluid, we can also fulfil some of our requirements with other drinks and foods. Fruit, veg, dairy products such as yoghurt and soups are all good food sources of fluid. Drinks to use with caution include:

  • Sugar sweetened beverages- these contain empty calories, providing little or no nutrition. Certain cold drinks may also have a diuretic effect, worsening dehydration.
  • Alcohol- alcohol in moderation (1-2 servings per day) is alright, however be aware that besides being harmful to the body, alcohol can have a negative effect on your sporting performance, nutritional status and cause dehydration in excess.

Around exercise

No two people are the same, likewise people vary in how easily they dehydrate. Get to understand your hydration levels better by weighing yourself before and after training. The difference in weight will be the result of fluid losses. In order to compensate for these losses, drink 1l-1.5l per kg lost.

BEFORE: Make sure you always start an exercise session session well hydrated, but beware of overhydrating before as this can lead to increased urination and GI upset during exercise

DURING: In events lasting less than 60-90 minutes you can use thirst as indicator, however longer sessions usually require planned fluid intake. Requirements usually vary between 150ml to 350ml of fluid at 15-20 minute intervals. Beverages with carbohydrate concentrations of 4% – 8% can be handy for intense exercise events lasting longer than 1 hour because they provide for both part of the athletes fluid requirements as well as carbohydrate replenishment requirements. Sports drinks are ideal in this situation as they provide the correct carbohydrate concentration, fluids and electrolytes which assist with rehydration and prevent hyponatremia.

  • AFTER: You do not stop losing fluids as soon as you stop exercising. You continue to dehydrate through sweat and urine losses after you finish exercising. Aim to replace 125-150% of all fluid lost in the hours following exercise. To rehydrate effectively drink your fluids along with salty recovery snacks which will provide much needed electrolytes.


Making sure that you are properly hydrated can be instrumental in maximising your sports performance. Following the guidelines above and learning exactly how your body’s fluid regulation works is definitely worth your effort if you want to be the best athlete you can be.









BY: Angela Leach

Vitamin D is different from other vitamins for two reasons. Firstly, it is in actual fact a hormone otherwise known as calcitriol1. Secondly, while other vitamins must be taken in through diet, the body is actually able to obtain Vitamin D through certain foods or produce it through exposure to sunlight. Despite this fact, Vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency is common in a large proportion of the world’s population which can cause serious health issues if not recified2.

For a long time the role of Vitamin D in bone health has been widely recognised, but in recent years research has increased in its role in muscle function. This leads us to ask, how can getting sufficient Vitamin D optimise our sports performance?


Improved muscle strength

Vitamin D plays a regulatory role in protein synthesis and various studies have demonstrated that Vitamin D can improve muscle strength. These results have been revealed in both upper and lower limbs4,5,6.

Injury prevention

Vitamin D deficiencies are linked to an increased risk of muscular injury as well as prolonged recovery time6, keeping you away from training and improving.

Decreased risk of stress fracture

Due to the very important role Vitamin D plays in bone health, supplementation has demonstrated significant effects in the prevention of fractures, including stress fractures5,6,7.

Reduced inflammation

Studies have demonstrated that increased levels of Vitamin D can reduce the level of inflammation following intense exercise. The benefit of the decrease in inflammation would be an earlier resumption of training7,8.

Immune system benefits

Increased blood Vitamin D levels are associated with a strengthened immune system, the result, less colds and flu and fewer infections to keep you away from training6,8.

Over and above these benefits in sports there is also research to show that Vitamin D can reduce cancer risk9,10,11, type 1 diabetes10,11,depression11, osteoporosis10,11 and overall morality,10,11 amongst others.


For those periods where soaking up some sun is just not possible, cod liver oil is the top dietary source of Vitamin D with just one tablespoon providing more than double the daily value for this nutrient.

The FUTURELIFE® Smart Food™ range is also a great source of Vitamin D providing 100% of the NRV per 100g.





REVIEWED BY: Angela Leach   


Java, Mud, Joe, Brew. People love coffee so much that in 5 seconds I was able to find 30 nicknames for it. Fortunately coffee is one of those rare treats that contain next to no calories and offers health and performance benefits. It is also one of the leading sources of antioxidants in the Western diet. What are the proven benefits (and risks) of coffee? And are there specific safe dosage limits? We take a look.


The following guidelines have been issued by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA):


In healthy adults between the age of 18 and 65, a daily dose of 400mg of caffeine does not raise safety concerns. Note: this guideline refers to caffeine as a whole and not just caffeine from coffee, it is important to consider all sources of caffeine in your diet when calculating your coffee allowance. Below is a table showing of the caffeine content of various sources:

Mug of brewed coffee 100 – 125 mg Mug of instant coffee 70 mg
Bar of dark chocolate 65 mg Can of Cola – 350 ml 50 mg
Mug of tea 45 – 75 mg 30g dark chocolate (a third of a bar) 20 mg
Mug of cocoa 15 mg Mug of green or white tea 15 mg
30g milk chocolate (a third of a bar) 6 mg Mug of decaffeinated coffee 2 mg

Beware: Too much caffeine (over 500-600mg) can cause restlessness, tremors, irritability, insomnia and an upset stomach.

Children and adolescents

On the whole, significant amounts of caffeine aren’t recommended for children and adolescents; this is due to the fact that caffeine interferes with sleep, which is necessary for proper growth and development. Safety has been established at a limit of 3mg per kg body weight for people between the ages of 3 and 18 years. This would equate to 60mg for a 20kg child.

Pregnant and lactating women

Because the physiological effects of caffeine are passed from the mother to the foetus/infant, its safety in pregnant and lactating women has long been debated. Caffeine has been linked to miscarriage, growth restriction and childhood leukemia, but largely in quantities exceeding 200mg per day. An intake of below 200mg is approved as safe by EFSA. However, to be cautious it is advisable to keep consumption as low as possible.

Specific health conditions

Those with pre-existing heart conditions or type 2 diabetes are advised to keep to an intake of below 200mg or follow their doctors’ instructions regarding intake.

There are some people that are ultra-sensitive to caffeine. In such a case it is difficult to establish a safe limit, but it is recommended to start intake at 50mg per day and increase or decrease from there.


Research on the benefits of Java is continuously emerging, some are mentioned below. The majority has shown health benefits from at least three 230ml cups of coffee per day, it may be even more beneficial to split this up into smaller amounts of about 80ml every hour. For those needing to limit their caffeine, decaf typically (with exception) offers the same benefits.

Liver protection

Coffee prevents liver cirrhosis and other liver diseases. The liver is an extremely important organ, responsible for many important functions in the body. Coffee plays a very important role in liver defence, which is particularly important if you drink alcohol. People that drink at least 4 cups per day have up to 80% less chance of developing liver cirrhosis.

A happier you

I’m sure you don’t need any article to tell you this, but coffee makes you happier! Coffee drinkers are 10 to 20% less likely to be depressed, they are also about half as likely to commit suicide. I would say a double expresso is a good reason to wake up in the morning!

Decreased cardiovascular risk

You may have heard that caffeine increases blood pressure and think that I am talking nonsense? However, this effect usually goes away if you drink coffee regularly (with exceptions). It also does not increase risk of heart disease and may prevent cardiac deaths.

Even better, coffee drinkers that drink between 1 and 3 cups per day have a significantly lower risk of having a stroke.

Effects are put down to antioxidants present in coffee which combat inflammation and a boost in nitric acid which dilates blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.

Brain benefits

A moderate intake of coffee improves brain function and reduces risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Coffee helps to increase the amount of certain important neurotransmitters which improves, among other things, memory, mood and general cognitive function.

As previously mentioned, coffee is also rich in antioxidants, this, along with its effect on neurotransmitters is thought to be the reason that coffee drinkers that consume between 1 and 5 cups per day have a noticeably decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s, dementia and even a form of brain cancer.

Coffee or more specifically the caffeine in coffee also assists with prevention of Parkinson’s disease. It can reduce the risk of Parkinson’s by between 30 and 60%

Cancer prevention

Coffee does not only prevent brain cancer. Due to its antioxidant content it has proven to be helpful in the prevention of skin, liver and colorectal cancers too.

Decreased risk of type 2 diabetes

Diabetes is a huge health concern which affects about 347 million people worldwide. Interestingly studies have shown that coffee consumption decreases risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Risk is shown to decrease by about 7% with each cup of coffee drunk per day, I.e. The more coffee you drink the lower your risk of developing diabetes. Remember this is preventative in nature and is not the case for those with existing type 2 diabetes.

Improved sporting performance

By stimulating the nervous system caffeine helps to make free fatty acids available from fat cells. These free fatty acids are then available to the body as a source of energy to fuel your exercise.

Caffeine also causes an increase in the “fight or flight” hormone, adrenaline. Adrenaline increases heart-rate, breathing-rate and energy production, preparing the body for an intense workout.

Because of its physiological effects on the body, Caffeine has been shown to improve exercise performance by 11-12%.  It therefore makes sense to have a cup of strong coffee 30-45 minutes before a workout.


While there are guidelines around safe intake limits, good quality coffee provides us with many health benefits. Take note that although roasted coffee contains antioxidants (Chlorogenic acid), its raw unroasted format ‘Green Coffee beans’ provide a stronger antioxidant punch (as roasting will decrease the antioxidant content). So keep a look out for new developments in products containing Green coffee bean extract.


To combine the goodness of FUTURELIFE® and coffee try this amazing mocha protein smoothie


1/2 cup coffee, already prepared
1/2 cup fat free vanilla yogurt
1 handful of ice
50g (5 heaped tablespoons) of Chocolate flavour FUTURELIFE® High Protein Smart Food™

Add all the ingredients to your blender and blend together on full power until smooth. Serve and enjoy.

Serves 1 – meal
Serves 2 – snack






BY: Danielle Roberts   

Maximum anabolism is ideal for muscle growth, strength and recovery, and the key is to keep the body tilted towards anabolism is to increase muscle protein synthesis.

Protein synthesis is a process where nitrogen from amino acids is arranged into structured proteins to create muscle growth. The more efficient this process, the more you build muscle. Protein synthesis requires two main criteria:

  1. Training- using the muscle
  2. Nutrition- a sudden increase in amino acids signals muscles to repair and grow.



Protein Pulse feeding is the use of fast proteins to spike amino acids in the bloodstream in order to increase muscle protein synthesis. The main way to do this is by ingesting anabolic dense meals often throughout the day. Basically anabolic density means more protein is taken up in less time. A good example of this is whey protein. Whey is broken down and absorbed quicker than casein in the same time, therefore it has a higher anabolic density.


The trick with protein pulsing is that you cannot eat a protein with a meal, as fat or carbohydrates, or even slow digesting proteins will delay digestion, and prevent a spike in amino acids. Ideally a protein pulse plan starts with having whey protein in the morning. Upon waking, we are usually in a catabolic state. To put the body into a more anabolic state, drinking a fast digesting protein, such as whey, is a good idea. Thereafter, taking in fast digesting proteins (whey, cottage cheese, egg whites) every 2-3 hours throughout the morning, helps ‘inject’ the muscles with amino acids. Once this has been done for about half a day, more balanced meals including protein, carbohydrates and fat can be consumed, making sure the protein content of the meal remains between 25g – 60g.



6am:  25g protein from whey (in water)

8am:  50g protein from whey (in water)

10am: 3 egg whites scrambled

12pm: lunch meal e.g. 200g grilled chicken with baked sweet potato and salad

2pm: FUTURELIFE® High Protein SmartBar

5pm: 25-50g protein from whey (in water) post gym

7pm: dinner meal e.g. 200g grilled fish with brown rice & steamed vegetables


This protein pulse idea proposes that the body will be flooded with amino acids which will increase muscle protein synthesis. Another upside to this is more metabolically active muscle tissue, which means the body burns more calories, and thus more fat.


While research is still fairly new, protein pulsing then gives one the opportunity to try build lean muscle mass more quickly with fairly little effort in terms of preparing laborious meals. It is certainly worth a try for those looking to increase their lean muscle mass, but should ideally be carried out with consultation of a registered dietitian to ensure that nutritional requirements are met.


BY: Angela Leach  

Maybe you’ve heard that it’s really important to eat before morning exercise? Perhaps you’ve tried it, but you had limited time and really regretted it during your workout because you just felt heavy, slightly nauseas and had tummy issues? Don’t fret, you are not alone, this is a common scenario and a major reason that many people do their workouts in a fasted state. Today I’m going to explain why it is so important to eat before you exercise in the morning and give you tips on WHAT to choose when time is not on your side.


Food, particularly carbohydrates, is fuel for your body. We all know how far a car goes when it runs out of fuel… Not very far at all. While we fortunately have carbohydrate stores (in the form of glycogen) in our muscles, these stores are limited, even more so if you have not eaten for 10-12 hours since your dinner the night before. You can therefore imagine the effects that going to train fasted would have1,2 3:

  • Premature fatigue
  • Low blood sugar levels
  • Decreased endurance capacity
  • Decreased speed
  • Gastrointestinal upsets
  • Negative effects on body composition

Simply put to get the most out of your training and to be able to go for longer it is a good idea to consume something before you train.


Your pre-exercise meal should be eaten in a period of 1-4 hours before training. Now, obviously if you are training at 5.30am, eating at 2am is really not an option for most recreational athletes. You may be willing to make some sacrifices before a competition or race, but certainly not a few times a week. Eating 1 hour before may be more realistic, but brings its own limitations; most people really can’t stomach much so soon before.


If you have a good few hours before start of your exercise options of carbohydrate rich breakfasts that will fuel you well are broad. However, when you have an hour or even less before exercise your options become quite limited. Nevertheless, you should ideally get something in, here are some tips that I’ve picked up over time:

Go low residue

Contrary to the types of carbohydrates one should generally try to include in their diet, in this meal you want to try steer away from high fibre foods. Low fibre foods are digested more quickly and will help to prevent gastrointestinal upsets and leave you feeling lighter during exercise4.

Portion with caution

You are most likely not going to be able to stomach a large serving of anything so soon before exercise. My feeling here is something is better than nothing, even if you can only tolerate a few mouthfuls of a carbohydrate rich food, it is more fuel than you would have had if you had foregone the meal.

Fat phobia

Like fibre, while (good) fats play an important role in our diets, they should be kept to a minimum before exercise. The reason for this is that fat slows down absorption of food and will leave you feeling heavy and uncomfortable. As a side note, if you include dairy remember to go low-fat or fat-free.

Drink your pre-exercise meal

This is a dual-purpose guideline. Firstly, this will help you to get in some fluids and assist with hydration levels. Secondly, many people find a liquid meal easier to stomach in the morning, it is also often more convenient to drink a meal on-the-go rather than sitting down to eat.

Personalise to your own tolerance

What works for one person may not work for the next, try different food options until you learn what works best for you. A small period of trial for a lifetime of brilliant morning workouts.


Now that we know the rules, here are some examples of foods that fit the criteria. Remember to keep portions small.

I hope that this information will help you to go from strength to strength in your training and that you achieve all your goals in whatever sport makes you smile.



How is it Possible for me to Train this Hard and not Lose Weight?

By: Sonal Ratan

Do the gym staff know you by name, because you’re there every day, like clockwork? Do you struggle to keep up at your running club, but still always show up and never give up? Do you work up a sweat at home every night, following the instructions from your fitness app? And are you still not losing weight, despite following such a high intensity fitness regime? We might have the missing link that can help on your journey towards weight-loss.



You need petrol to fuel a car and get to your destination, right? Of course you do, the car and petrol are equally important to get you from point A to point B. In the same way, if you want to lose weight then it is important that you follow a calorie-restricted, balanced eating plan as well as exercise.



Okay, so you’re fully aware that what you eat is just as important as how you exercise. But let’s take a closer look at a few common myths that could be misleading you.


“I can have this cupcake and run for an extra five minutes to work it off later”.

Think of your body like a scale. If you consume the same amount of calories (in the form of food or beverages) that you use (for body functions and physical activity), then your weight will stay the same. Let’s use the cupcake as an example:


1 cupcake= Jogging at an average pace (5 minutes) = ±240 calories IN   ± 80 calories OUT

This much extra jogging would only burn off one third of that cupcake! It doesn’t sound so appealing now, does it? I’m not saying that you should never have a treat again. You are human and sometimes you want to indulge in something sweet. So, why not go for our FUTURELIFE® Crunch Bar instead? Not only is it delicious, it also:

  • Is high in protein;
  • Is a source of fibre;
  • Contains soya lecithin. Studies suggest that soya lecithin assists with improved brain function, aids in healthy weight loss, lowers cholesterol and prevents fat build-up in the arteries to promote heart health.


12g FUTURELIFE® Crunch Bar=   Walking up the stairs (4 minutes) = 43 calories IN ±43 calories OUT

Do you work in a building with stairs? Then working off a FUTURELIFE® Crunch Bar is as simple as skipping the elevator and walking about four flights of stairs.


Note: Calories burned will differ between individuals as this is dependent on numerous factors. The above are examples for a better understanding of how calorie intake and use works.


“I need a low fat or low carb diet to lose the most amount of weight”.


Absolutely not! A study investigated the effects of a low carb and low fat diet on weight loss. For two weeks, one group of obese participants were placed on a low carb diet that reduced their total calorie intake by 30%. A second group of obese participants were placed on a low fat diet which also reduced their calorie intake by 30%. After the two weeks and a few weeks of rest, the groups switched diets. The results revealed that both groups had lost about the same amount of weight1.


This study is a great example of why cutting down on one specific food group does not achieve optimal weight-loss results. Yes, the groups did lose some weight but this was due to the fact that the participants were obese and had cut back on calories by 30%. More focus should be placed on reducing your total calorie intake and distributing your daily allowed calories throughout a balanced diet consisting of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. This will lead to you losing a significant amount of weight and keeping it off, with exercise. It is also important to watch your portion sizes and choose the right types of foods. Here are a few tips to ensure that you are eating the correct portion sizes at meal times:

Palm for protein


Your portion of protein should be the size and thickness of your palm. Remember to go for lean options and cut off all extra fat from meat before cooking. E.g. skinless grilled chicken breast, grilled fish or boiled eggs.

Fist for carbohydrates


Include a fist full of a high fibre carbohydrate. E.g. FUTURELIFE® Smart Bread™ (1-2 slices), brown rice or whole wheat pasta.

Handfuls for vegetables


You should include at least two handfuls of a variety of vegetables of different colours. The more colours you include, the better. Each colour indicates different nutrients. E.g. carrots, tomatoes, broccoli or beetroot.


Thumb for fat


Include healthy fats at meal times but only as much as the tip of your thumb. As a general rule, use no more than 1 teaspoon of fat for a meal when cooking. E.g. canola oil, olive oil or avocado in a salad.


The above are general guidelines. For a more precise calculation of your meal portion requirements visit your nearest dietitian.


“I need to sip on an energy drink while training”.

It is common knowledge that staying hydrated while training is important. However, what you are meant to drink is still unclear to many people. The American College of Sports Medicine states that when exercising for less than one hour, there is limited evidence that people who drink beverages with carbohydrates and electrolytes perform better than those who drink plain water2. It is also important to keep in mind that if you are exercising in an air-conditioned gym for 90 minutes, you are still more likely to need fluids in the form of water than electrolytes (you may need some carbohydrates for hard sessions, lasting longer than an hour). Let’s break it down:


500ml energy drink= Full body gym workout (60 minutes, non-stop) = 150 calories IN   240 calories OUT

Once you’ve completed a 60-minute, full body workout, you have burned about 240 calories. If you’ve consumed a 500ml energy drink during this time, then you’ve consumed about 150 calories. 150 calories in and 240 calories out, means 90 calories burned by the end of your gym session. So, do you really need that energy drink? Research shows that there is no substantial evidence to prove that energy drinks – except for caffeinated drinks, which are beneficial because of the caffeine – lead to the enhancement of physical performance3. My advice is that if you are not an athlete, sweating vigorously and training for lengthy periods of time and your aim is to lose weight, energy drinks are not a good idea. Plain water is enough to keep you hydrated, as you will not lose a significant amount of electrolytes while you train. You also won’t require extra glucose if you have had a small snack or a meal some time before your workout. If you want that caffeine fix, then simply add a teaspoon of coffee to your FUTURELIFE® shake before your workout.


No one said that the journey towards losing weight was going to be easy but it certainly isn’t impossible. Now that you have a few tips, stay motivated, train hard and eat right – starting now! You will definitely be thanking yourself later.








When and How to Tone and Build Muscles

By: Wilna Eksteen



This is something every male will attempt, and more than once in his lifetime. Unfortunately, muscle building and toning are (like most things in life) influenced by your genes, age, gender, eating habits and exercise. Not all teenage boys will wake up on their 15th birthday with a full beard and start shaving, some will start earlier. Some will take years to grow a beard that runs from ear to ear and some will have to shave twice a day to keep everything under control. The same principle applies to muscle building and toning.


Not everyone builds muscles in the same way. If you understand that your body determines how you build and tone muscles, you can start doing the right types of exercises, taking part in the right sports and identifying which physical activities will be easiest for you.

Type 1

Type 1 fibres are also known as slow twitch fibres. They are red in colour due to the presence of large volumes of myoglobin and oxygen as well as high numbers of mitochondria. They are very resistant to fatigue and are capable of producing repeated low-level contractions.

Athletes such as marathon runners have a high number of this type of fibre, partly through genetics and partly through training1.

Type 2A

Type 2A fibres are also known as fast oxidative fibres and are a cross of type I and II fibres. They are more prone to fatigue than type I fibres. Resistance training can turn type 2B fibres into type 2A fibres by increasing the ability to utilise the oxidative cycle1.

Type 2B   

Also known as fast glycolytic fibres, these are white in colour due to a low level of myoglobin and few mitochondria. This results in short, fast bursts of power and rapid fatigue. This type of fibre can be turned into type 2A fibres, through resistance training. This is a positive change because of the increased fatigue resistance of type 2A fibres. These fibres are found in large quantities in the arm muscles1.

It is a lot harder for someone with majority type 1 muscle fibre to build bulking muscles, than it is for someone with majority type 2B fibres. It is quite easy to identify the type of muscle fibres you have. If you are lean, naturally a bit skinny and have never been the fastest person around, you most likely have type 1 muscle fibres.

This will help you when you exercise. If you have type 1 muscle fibres, it takes you a lot longer to condition your muscles into being ‘bulky’ than if you have type 2B muscle fibres.



During your teen years, your body wants to grow. You’re churning out hormones that are specially designed to help you get bigger. Right now you may be able to take in a huge amount of food and use it to build a strong body.  But growing will not stop here – especially for guys.

  • There is no shortcut to growing.
  • You will not look like the guy next to you, everybody is different.
  • Start slowly. Your muscles are growing but forcing them will just cause injuries.
  • Genetics does play a role.
  • Do not overdo protein.
  • Sleep! Your body produces growth hormones while you sleep.
  • Get advice on your specific body type.


You are not supposed to look in proportion when you are going through puberty. Your body grows at different rates, in different places and this is completely normal. The same principle applies to your muscles, they will grow bigger as soon as your body can afford to use energy for it.



  1. Listen to your body.
  2. Speak to your parents about when they went through growth spurts. This can give you an idea of when you might start growing taller or building muscles more easily.
  3. If you work against your body, you will cause more damage than good and it will take you a lot longer to see any results.
  4. Do not compare yourself with other girls or boys.
  5. Eat a healthy, balanced diet that consists of a variety of foods. The body you have now still needs to go through a lot, look after it.
  6. Muscle building and toning is very dangerous if you start too early.

Building and toning muscles is different for every person. Make sure you understand your body and what is ‘natural’ for you. There are a lot of ways to look better and have a healthy body, but it depends on your body and what it is capable of at different stages in your life.







What You Need From Your Nutrition During Exercise

By: Danielle Roberts

Endurance sporting events are becoming increasingly popular. Doing well, and recovering well in longer endurance events can be directly linked to good nutrition.



The energy requirements of endurance athletes are higher than other athletes. Calorie requirements differ depending on an athlete’s gender, age, weight goals, and training programme. Smaller athletes in light training will require a minimum of 2,000 calories per day; larger athletes and those in heavy training may need well over 5,000 calories per day. It is important that athletes try achieve these calories from a variety of food sources. Having a good nutrition programme that meets energy, weight and training goals during the early phases of training, helps prepare you for heavy training schedules, and competition. A sports dietitian is the best person to assist in a personalised meal plan.


Carbohydrates provide the ideal energy source for most endurance exercises because they are quickly absorbed and used by the body. Following a diet that is too low in carbohydrates can cause fatigue and injury. Also, eating sufficient carbohydrates spares protein from being used as a source of fuel during exercise. Generally 5-7g / kg is needed per day for high intensity endurance athletes to perform at their best day after day, and on race day.


Protein helps build and repair muscles, and supports immune function. Protein also is used as a less important fuel for endurance exercise and sport. Even during race events and long training sessions,

taking in a little protein, along with carbohydrates may help prevent muscle breakdown. Protein is also vital for recovery post training and allows for muscle protein synthesis. Generally, 1.2-1.7g / kg protein is needed per day.

Looking at your overall diet

Following a nutrient-dense, well-balanced diet, you can easily meet your needs for endurance training and racing. Eat a diet high in quality carbohydrates, moderate in healthy fat and adequate in lean protein.

Your nutrient intake and diet plan needs to adjust to meet changing energy and macronutrient demands as you progress through the different stages of training and competition. Once you have an eating plan in place for a particular cycle, keep consistent eating habits to maintain or improve performance goals.



During a race or event, carbohydrates (or an energy source), becomes very important to avoid “hitting the wall”. This is when your body runs out of available energy sources to fuel performance, and the athlete feels exhausted. Taking in intermediate or fast digesting carbohydrates can prevent this from happening during a race. As a rule we require 30-60 g of carbohydrates per hour, this can increase to 90 g in events with high levels of effort lasting more than 4 hours.

Fat as a fuel?

There are some athletes who are able to adapt to using fat as a source of energy during longer (slower) events, but it takes a while for the body to adapt to a low-carb training diet, and this needs to be monitored closely and adhered to strictly. Something to be cautious of is ingesting slow absorbing fuels like proteins, nuts, or foods with fibre and other solid foods during workouts or races, which can cause gastric discomfort. An empty stomach can absorb your race drink quickly and properly. Keep your stomach empty by only consuming fast absorbing drinks instead of slow solid foods.


The most important tip to follow for any type of race is of course, never to try a new supplement on race day. An athlete should always be familiar with nutrition available during the race in case that

specific supplement disagrees with the digestive system, makes you feel nauseous or causes drops in  sugar levels.

Counting Calories: Yes or No?

By: Elizda Hanekom

In order to lose weight we need to eat fewer calories than what our body uses. In theory this may seem really easy and simple to do however, in the modern world it becomes a little more complex. With tendencies towards healthier lifestyles, individuals are equipping themselves to make better choices and calorie counting is often used for weight management. Let’s take a closer look at counting calories in the correct way.


People haven’t been counting calories forever, as difficult as a world without calorie awareness may be to imagine. The concept became popular around the turn of the 20th century1. Scientist Wilbur Atwater discovered that if you put food into a bomb calorimeter, a machine that measures the energy contained in a food by measuring the heat generated during its combustion2, you would then know how much “energy” was in the food. The idea became popular and many people started counting calories – that is, counting exactly how many calories are consumed when eating foods and then exactly how many are “burned” when doing different activities. These activities include walking, talking, eating and even activities that keep our bodies functioning properly like breathing3.


Understanding calorie counting is an important concept. When we eat the same number of calories as we burn our body uses, our weight will be maintained. If we eat more than what our bodies use we will gain weight. If we then eat less than what our bodies use we will subsequently lose weight.

Besides calorie content, there are numerous reasons to choose certain foods. For example: choosing a low GI, high fibre option means that the food will keep you fuller for longer which may prevent you from eating “extra” calories to fill you up4. The other benefit of eating healthier options (fruits, veggies and low fat foods) is that we can eat a lot more food, for less calories. Our bodies get greater nutritional benefits too. Carbohydrates and protein have 4 calories per gram whereas fats have more than double this at 9 grams per calorie5. Alcohol is 7 calories per gram. So, although counting calories for weight management definitely works, our diet quality is extremely important. It doesn’t help we choose high fat breakfast options such as a full fat cheese and bacon omelette, as one could easily consume over half your day’s calorie allowance by the end of breakfast without getting nearly the nutritional value that those calories ought to contain.


People are counting calories for different reasons but it all has to do with weight, whether it is to lose, to maintain or to gain. People want something that’s easy – therefore downloading an app that helps count the calories of the foods that you want to eat seems very appealing. Note that this often leads to eating smaller portions of the unhealthier foods. For me this is a big no-no. My advice is that individuals should focus on diet quality. The problem is that it’s easier to count calories (or fat grams) than to understand the complex effects that food has on our bodies and waistlines. In short, calories do count but there’s more to it. Different foods have different effects on our bodies. Think of hormones, some hormones say “store the fat”, others say “release sugar” and others say “build muscle.” Numerous studies have shown that the amount of calories consumed are important, but, different proportions of carbohydrates, protein and fat result in varying amounts of weight loss1,3,5.


Counting calories accurately is extremely difficult. Yes, there are apps to assist us but these are also not 100% accurate as there is still an element of human error when estimating portion sizes. In addition the pizza listed on the app may contain a completely different amount of cheese for instance than the pizza you are consuming. Although 67% of Americans have reported taking calories into account when making food choices, about 9 out of 10 had no idea about the actual amount they needed to consume per day4.

Another factor is that we often miscount what we eat. Men claim to eat an average of 2618 calories per day whilst women claim to eat only 1877 calories4. Where are all the extra calories going? These mainly go straight to your waistline.

Nutrition experts were put to the test in an experiment. Two hundred dietitians were given five different meals served in restaurants and asked to estimate the calorie value of each meal. It was found that their estimates of the calorie values for each meal were inadequate6. With even the professionals struggling to accurately predict the number of calories in meals it just shows that alternative methods could prove to have better results.


Yes, calorie formulas are still correct, but that doesn’t take away from the complexity of it all. Think of exercise. We focus on the number of kilometres we have run, our heart rate or the number of minutes we have exercised for instead of the amount of calories burned. Here are a few alternatives to calorie counting:

o Eat smaller portions: This sounds so obvious although it isn’t always the easiest. Restaurants and fast food outlets serve larger portions – do you recognise any of these words – supersize, grande, large, even extra-large. Studies have shown that when we are served more, we eat more4. We also then gauge a serving to be a lot bigger than what it should be. An easy way to eat less is to dish up in a smaller plate and then not reach for seconds. When eating out, swop your carbohydrate (fries) for salad or stir-fried veggies.

o Choose foods that use more energy to digest: Yes, you read this correctly. Certain foods use more energy to digest and metabolize, this is called the thermic effect of food. Although the difference is small, small amounts all add up. Protein and carbohydrates have a higher thermic effect than fats. Whole-wheat bread for instance uses more energy to digest versus a refined white bread4.

o Making the right nutrition choices: We always hear about balance, variety and moderation. Making better lifestyle choices are of utmost importance. Choose lean meats, low fat options, whole grains, low GI foods, plenty of fruits and veggies, lots of water, exercise and you’re off to an excellent start.


Let’s place greater focus on why we eat certain foods, which foods are healthier and when we do eat something “naughty” don’t fall off the bandwagon, just get back on. It is all about lifestyle choices. In short: “You don’t need to count calories, but you should make all your calories count!


1. Bowden J. Smart Fat. [Online]. [cited 2017 June 12. Available from:

2. Unknown. [Online]. [cited 2017 June 12. Available from:

3. West H. Authority Nutrition. [Online].; 2016 [cited 2017 June 12. Available from:

4. Kovacs JS. Wed MD. [Online].; 2009 [cited 2017 June 12. Available from:

5. Rousell M. Shape. [Online].; 2017 [cited 2017 June 12. Available from:

6. Young L. The Portion Teller Plan House R, editor. USA: Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony; 2005.

Need to Lift Your Spirits? THEN GET MOVING!

By: Kathleen Mc Quaide (Sports Scientist, Strategic, Marketing and Relationship Manager at the Sports Science Institute of SA)

 “Feeling down” or “got the blues” more often than you’d like? You are NOT alone – anxiety, panic disorder and depression are becoming increasingly common in our society and it has been predicted that by the year 2020, the most common reason for South Africans visiting their doctors will be due to depression. It is believed that only about 20% of individuals who meet the criteria for depression are actually treated by someone trained in the field (psychologist, psychiatrist). A major reason for this, is that people fear being labelled or stigmatised as having a mental condition, and they therefore underplay the severity of their symptoms. However, if the doctor or therapist was to approach their patient with positive preventative type strategies such as exercise, it would probably be much more acceptable to them. In fact, it has now been conclusively shown that in non-depressed men and women, inactivity is a major predictor of future depression- so all medical professionals should be prescribing exercise.

Maybe you are not depressed but you are STRESSED!  As technology changes faster than the speed of light – with smartphones, iPads and laptops being the order of the day- people expect everything done NOW.  Some people feel the need to be accessible 24/7 and squash more and more into their already hectic day- therefore burning the candle at both ends. Something has to give, and very often it’s our health that does due to incessant stress. Aiming for a stress-free existence is tantamount to wanting to live in a Utopia and indeed some stress is healthy, but we do need to look after ourselves and ensure there is some time for relaxation, spending time with family and friends and being active.

Whether you fear you are battling with chronic depression or quite simple stressed out – exercise can offer a helping hand.

On a practical level, how much exercise should you perform to derive the optimal psychological benefits and what should you be doing?


People usually feel good for about 2-6 hours after an exercise bout, which helps to decrease anxiety, tension and depression. However, to have the best effects, try to incorporate the following 7 tips into your physical activity plan:

  • Make it something you enjoy and preferably an activity that doesn’t require mastery, otherwise you could be put off because it is either too much effort, or you feel like a failure if you can’t master it successfully.
  • The activity should be very accessible, otherwise when you feel tired and down-hearted – you might feel it is not worth the effort to get there.
  • If you are feeling down – opt for group-based sessions since most of us benefit from the support and encouragement of others. Not only will it lift flagging spirits; it might also see the beginning of new, healthy friendships.
  • The activity should be regular – at least three sessions a week and more if possible.
  • Keep in mind the immediate uplifting effects of exercise – therefore, if you can incorporate even a short walk into each day, you will benefit psychologically.
  • That said – exercise for long enough. Where possible – sessions should not be shorter than 30 minutes – and try to extend them to 45 minutes to an hour, where possible, for maximal psychological benefits. Try to accumulate 150 minutes of physical activity per week.
  • Think long-term – you will be amazed at how the wonderful benefits encourage you to make a life-long commitment to regular exercise.
  • Use outdoor exercise options whenever possible. It is remarkable how exercising outdoors helps you to gain perspective on troubling issues (particularly if you select a beautiful area in which to exercise i.e. a forest walk, a clamber up the mountains, a walk along a stunning beach).

Exercise is also a great way to increase your energy levels and fight off feelings of fatigue and stress. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain thus delivering more oxygen and enzymes important for energy production.  It also improves sleep and immune function, elevates overall mood and well-being.


Interestingly – a research study published in the Journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism in July 2013 – showed that the number of times you exercise in a week isn’t as important as getting the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week. However, they were only measuring the participant’s risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke. As an avid runner – my regular running and training sessions provide enormous stress relief for me – freedom of expression and a daily dose of sanity. I would personally hate to have to reserve those benefits to a long run once a week!

Clearly the positive psychological benefits of regular exercise aren’t limited to those who are feeling below par. Everyone can benefit from regular exercise as it improves our sense of well-being, our degree of vigour and vitality and decreases our sense of confusion, lethargy, anxiety and anger.

And all you have to do is to put on your gear and get going for the benefits to unfold.