Regular physical exercise and a balanced diet are the foundation for a healthy lifestyle. This is why doctors recommend that everyone should take up some kind of sport. Whether a regular activity or an occasional pastime, and whether you’re looking for top performance or just a way to enjoy yourself, physical activity requires a properly adapted diet. It is important to strike the right balance between your energy intake and the energy you use during sport. For example, your energy expenditure can go from 80 to 100kcal/h (1800 to 2400kcal/d) to 400 or even 800kcal/h during medium to high-intensity activity.
When you exercise, your muscles burn glucose. Therefore, to replenish this energy source, sportsmen and women need to incorporate more carbohydrates into their diets. These carbohydrates can represent between 55 and 70% of your energy intake, depending on how much you burn over the course of the day.
The heat produced by your body during exercise is regulated by the evaporation of sweat from your skin. You can lose a great deal of water and minerals this way (from 1 to 3l/h), and these need to be replenished as you go along.
Exercise increases the levels of water, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins your body needs, and these need to come from your diet.
What should you drink during physical exercise ?
How much water you need to properly hydrate yourself during sport will depend upon how much your body loses (from 0.3 to 1.5l/h), and the best way of hydrating yourself is with a well-adjusted drink. By taking fruit juice, diluting it 2 to 4 times to take the sugar content down from 200g/l to around 50g/l and adding a pinch of salt, you can make yourself an excellent sports drink
And prune juice is a good base to start with. It is rich in potassium (3.7g/l), iron (10 to 15mg/l), magnesium (120 to 200mg/l), calcium (180 to 225mg/l) and zinc (5 to 9.5mg/l), and is a natural source of the vitamins (E, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C…) that can be lost during perspiration. This is a great way for sportsmen and women to stay fighting fit.
Which carbohydrates do you need to succeed in sport ?
As a general rule, not all carbohydrate-containing foods are of equal value to your body. Put simply, you can separate them into two categories: foods with a high glycaemic index which are assimilated relatively quickly, and foods with a low glycaemic index, which take longer to be absorbed. The more sport you do, the more high GI foods you should be taking on.
A combination of fructose and glucose during exercise seems to be the most effective in terms of performance, enabling you to train for longer and avoid minor illnesses and cravings.
For training and low-intensity sports, or those requiring sustained effort over a long period of time and which burn fat (marathon, triathlon, trekking, trails, cross-country skiing, etc.), you should choose low-GI foods.
Among these foods, prunes stand out as a great choice, thanks to their levels of glucose (24g/100g), fructose (15g/100g), sorbitol (10 g/100g), soluble fibre (4.9 g/100g) and insoluble fibre (4.1 g/100g), and their glycaemic index of 52. This makes them great for this type of sport. And aside from the high-value sugars they contain, they help you feel full and reduce the desire for constant snacking. They are also very low in fat. Their energy density (42kcal per 20g) is much lower than other products (e.g. 130kcal for 20g of chocolate). They are a natural source of vitamins and minerals that many other foods lack, especially potassium (80mg/100g), which neutralises the acidity which builds up during sport, and magnesium (45mg/100g, or 13% of your recommended daily allowance). Magnesium deficiencies can lead to decreased performance, the appearance of cramps and can even result in injuries.
Moreover, during sustained exercise which lasts for longer than two and a half hours, it is recommended that you take small, solid portions of carbohydrates in addition to your drinks. By alternating your drinks with dried, pulpy fruits such as prunes, you can do this with ease
And aside from their nutritional benefits, they are great for your general well-being and taste delicious, too. With a great flavour, a natural, down-to-earth image, convenience, shelf-life and minimal weight, these little fruits are the perfect companion for any sports enthusiast, whether you’re just starting out or have been doing it for years.