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Nutrition and Physical Activity

British Columbia Specific Information

Being physically active can benefit your physical and mental health in many ways. For example, it can strengthen your muscles and bones, lower your risk of chronic health conditions, and improve your mood and sleep. Physical activity can be safe for almost everyone. If you have concerns about your health or becoming more active, speak with your health care provider or a qualified exercise professional.

For information on the role of physical activity on overall health and taking steps to change your physical activity level, visit the general health and helping you make it happen sections of our website. If you would like guidance on physical activity or exercise, call our qualified exercise professionals by dialing 8-1-1 and asking to speak with Physical Activity Services between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM Pacific Time Monday to Friday. You can also leave a message outside of these hours and email a qualified exercise professional.

Topic Overview

Food provides energy for physical activity. As you get more active and more fit, and/or as you lose weight, your energy needs (how many calories you need) may change. To get the energy you require, you need to get the proper amount of:

  • Protein, which is needed to maintain and rebuild tissues such as muscles.
  • Carbohydrate, which is the body's preferred source of energy.
  • Fat, which also provides energy.
  • Water, to replace water lost through activity.

Eating a diet that is varied, balanced, and moderate can provide you with all the nutrients the body needs without getting too much or too little of any one nutrient.

  • Balance means eating the recommended number of servings from each food group most days.
  • Variety within each food group (for example, eating different fruits from the fruit group instead of eating only apples) ensures that you will get all the nutrients you need, since no one food provides every nutrient. Eating a wide variety of foods will also help you avoid eating too much of any substance that may be harmful.
  • Moderation means eating a little of everything but nothing in excess. All foods can fit into a healthy diet if you eat everything in moderation.

Those who are very active or who are athletes may have special nutritional needs. They usually don't need more protein than other people, but they do need more carbohydrate (grains, vegetables, fruits) than the amount recommended for the average person. Carbohydrate is stored as ready energy in the liver and muscles, and this supply is used up very quickly during exercise. Endurance athletes (such as runners and cyclists) need a particularly large amount of carbohydrate. The carbohydrate needs to be eaten right before and during exercise, because the body cannot store a lot of carbohydrate.

For a better understanding of your own nutritional requirements, talk to a sports doctor or dietitian.

Credits

Current as of:
May 12, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Thomas M. Bailey MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Heather Chambliss PhD - Exercise Science