Sport vs physical activity

Before talking about nutrition, it is essential to reflect on the type of physical activity that takes place. Proper nutrition is in fact closely linked to the lifestyle we live, since energy expenditure depends on it. There is a substantial difference, therefore, between a sedentary individual, those who regularly engage in physical activity and those who play sports.

By sport, we mean the constant training of a competitive sportsman. A type of activity of this kind requires daily training, with sessions often longer than 2h divided into aerobic, anaerobic, and specific toning exercises. A professional athlete will follow roadmaps with the aim of always putting himself to the test and increasing his level of performance.

Physical activity, on the other hand, is in turn divided into two categories. The first is made up of those subjects who carry out activities such as the half-hour of healthy Sunday walk, the right one to digest, or sometimes travel by bicycle to stretch their legs. The second category, on the other hand, sees more regular patrons, with extended bi or tri-weekly frequencies to improve and maintain muscle tone. Unfortunately, in addition to those who play sports and those who carry out physical activity, there remains a large percentage of sedentary people, which in Italy corresponds to 38%. We have seen several times how physical activity is essential for maintaining mental and physical health, and such a high percentage can only cause concern.

Diet vs diet teraphy

The distinction of physical activity carried out is essential since a healthy and proper diet is closely linked to this aspect. The food program for professional teams will be extremely different from that of the Sunday walker, as a professional sportsman will have an extremely higher energy requirement.

But let’s go more specifically.

By diet we mean the amount of food and drink taken by an individual without considering their health needs. To this definition, we would also like to add a broader consideration, and this concept also includes the whole complex of life norms, therefore also physical activity, healthy habits, and so on. Diet is therefore a broader concept, which is not limited to considering the food taken but also different parameters and different actions that characterize our lifestyles.

A very different issue when it comes to diet therapy. Diet therapy is the prescription of a personalized diet, with the aim of maintaining a state of health and preventing or treating specific diseases. Considering that the prescription is specific to the medical profession, “dieting” is not and should not be a do-it-yourself aspect.

The physical action of eating is necessary because we have a plastic need: that is, it is necessary to introduce, through food, those substances that help cell renewal and therefore the physical maintenance of the body. In addition to this, we also need the energy to run the “engine” and cover the energy expenditure. The amount of calorie expenditure depends on several factors: on personal thermoregulation, which is a subjective aspect; from the environment in which we are inserted, for example in a colder environment the expenditure is higher. But it also depends on muscle activity: it is clear that an athlete who practices a competitive sport will have a different energy requirement than an office worker.

Eating too little or too much

Proper nutrition is often confused with the concept of a diet intended as a diet regulated by a doctor, which as we have seen cannot be DIY. Often self-deprivation (eating only proteins, removing carbohydrates, completely cutting fatty foods …), the victim of erroneous beliefs but with the intent of losing weight, as well as not serving the purpose also make the situation worse. Eating too much or too little are in fact conditions that create unfavorable conditions for the body, not only due to obesity or excessive thinness, but also other problems regulated by the correct intake of water, vitamins, and minerals. Proper nutrition provides the right amount of all the substances we need, regardless of physical activity, including the right amount of vitamins. When we self-punish ourselves by restricting an unsupported diet, we often lose muscle, bone mass, or simply water. The diet should not be invented, it should be supported and indeed you lose weight more and in a better way eating!

Basal metabolic rate

About 75% of metabolic consumption is involved in mere existence, which is what we would burn if we were standing all day doing nothing. Too intense anaerobic activities only contribute to the immediate consumption of sugars (whether complex or simple) as they are more immediately synthesized. While for an average activity and a heart rate at 65/70% of the maximum heart rate it is the one that allows us to consume more fat than sugars.

Here, walking at a medium pace is the best way to be able to lose fat mass. Better still, an activity such as Nordic Walking, whose regular and non-invasive pace is ideal for losing weight.

We remember that we speak in generic terms, using ideal standard parameters created to give statistical averages. Each situation is different, and if there are any special needs, it is good to seek the advice of an experienced professional.

The basal metabolism, that is the basic daily consumption, responds to this formula: 1 kcal / kg / hour. Therefore, for a subject weighing 75 kg, the daily consumption of the basal metabolic rate will be 75×24 = 1800 kcal. This is the energy an individual needs only for life sustenance, without energy expenditure for physical activity.

What to do before a physical activity?

It is good to start planning physical activity through nutrition even many days in advance. If you plan to take a march on Sunday, or a long hike in the mountains, you will have to start preparing the body on Tuesday. This will help us to allow the body to prepare itself and tackle the activity without problems or painful post-exercise residues. In the 3 days prior to the activity, it is good to take about 10 grams of sugars/carbohydrates per kilo of body weight, in order to increase the base from which to draw during the activity. Our 75 kg subject, therefore, will have to take 750 grams per day. Beware that we are talking about intense activities. Furthermore, the amount of sugars is not to be attributed to the weight of the food: 100 grams of pasta will be composed of approximately 80% carbohydrates (therefore sugars). It is also good to use carbohydrates with a low glycemic index, (the ability of a food to raise blood sugar as soon as it is inserted). Knowing these aspects is important but it is not easy.

This is why it is good to contact an expert nutritionist who will be able to advise you best based on the type of physical activity and your needs and characteristics.