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Let food be your medicine





The performance enhancing dietary information here is not just for athletes, but for all those who participate in, or have occupations that involve, regular intense physical exertion, strength and stamina. Often people that perform on stage put their bodies through intense stress but are unaware that they too need a specialised diet that will replenish the nutrients they have used up and lost during their performance. Soldiers are another example of people that need to understand the nutritional needs of their bodies after intense training and exertion.

Racing cyclistNutrition for individuals that participate in high-energy activities is more complex than that of the averagely active or sedentary person. Most realise that they need higher amounts of protein but some do not realise they are also using and losing vitamins,  minerals and other nutrients at a far faster rate. When certain nutrients are missing over a period of time this can affect many important bodily functions and may be one of the reasons that seemingly fit and active individuals also develop cancer. Cancer is a malfunction and due to the protein messengers, that tell abnormal cells to 'commit suicide', not being produced or working correctly. The abnormal cells then begin to replicate and tumours are formed. The protein messengers need specific vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to be created and work efficiently. If any are constantly missing in the diet and also lost, due to exertion, then it is obvious that cancer may be the result.  Vitamin B8 (inositol) and choline are two such nutrients.

Water-soluble vitamins and many minerals are lost due to perspiration and used up far quicker when the body is working hard. Because water soluble vitamin C and most of the vitamin B complex dissolve in water upon entering the body they cannot be stored for later use. They are eliminated in the urine meaning a constant daily supply is required. Vitamins B3 (niacin and niacinamide) is not stored in the human body in significant amounts, so stores may only last a couple of weeks under normal circumstances but this storage time will be far shorter when the body is working hard.

Vitamin C and the B complex are all essential for many important cellular processes involving the nervous system, the immune system, the production and maintenance of neurotransmitters, antibodies, hormones, cells, messenger proteins, tissues, bones, skin, teeth and blood vessels. They are also essential for the utilisation and manufacture of many other organic nutrients and non-organic minerals.

Many performers resort to drugs to help them keep going or relieve pain and these will cause even further loss of vitamins and minerals and damage the liver. Drugs and alcohol forces the expulsion of vital minerals such as zinc and reduces the body's ability to absorb many important vitamins especially the vitamin B complex.

See nutrients required for physical exertion below.


Many also take supplements but often synthetic supplements are in forms that the body cannot use and taking supplements can cause imbalances. For instance, vitamin C increases iron uptake, which vitamin E inhibits. Vitamin C lowers manganese and zinc, while vitamin E helps increase manganese and zinc absorption. As a result, a very high intake of vitamin C will require an equally high intake of vitamin E to maintain the same ratio.

Vitamin C is required to change proline into hydroxyproline (collagen) and lysine into hydroxylysine (collagen) which both help to repair tissue damage. It works best when accompanied by foods rich in rutin and hesperidin which will not be found in most supplements containing vitamin C.

This is just a tiny example of how vitamins, minerals and other nutrients work together as cofactors and are often found together in natural foods in the correct ratio whereas manufactured nutrient supplements rarely matches nature.

Carbohydrates, fat and protein

Factors such as dehydration and glycogen replenishment are also important to performance. The energy used must come from carbohydrates and not protein which will lead to losing muscle mass.

Under normal circumstances, i.e. physical activities below 50% of the maximum heart rate, fat provides 70% of the energy required by muscles and sugar provides 30% energy. Fat provides the main fuel source for long duration, low to moderate intensity exercise (endurance sports such as marathons).


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Even during high intensity exercise, where carbohydrates naturally become the main fuel source, fat is needed to help access the stored carbohydrate (glycogen). Using fat for fuel, however, is dependent upon the following important factors:

  • Fat is slow to digest and be converted into a usable form of energy (it can take up to 6 hours).

  • Converting stored body fat into energy takes time. The body needs to breakdown fat and transport it to the working muscles before it can be used as energy.

  • Converting stored body fat into energy takes a great deal of oxygen, so exercise intensity must decrease for this process to occur.

It is for these reasons that the body switches to gaining energy from sugar instead of fats. Lower intensities of exercise will naturally gain the energy required from fat but as the intensity of physical activity increases, carbohydrates become more and more important until at very high intensities, almost all of the energy to fuel exercise comes from carbohydrate burning and none from fat-burning. Ballet dancer

As the exercise intensity (in watts) increases, the rate of fat burning increases, reaching a maximum of around 35 grams per hour at 180 watts. Above 180 watts, the amount of fat used for energy drops off rapidly so that by 300 watts, it is contributing virtually nothing. Carbohydrate burning increases steadily too but at around 180 watts (just as fat burning drops off) it jumps dramatically so that by 300 watts, it is contributing 100% of the energy for exercise.

These individuals needs to consume 60-70% carbohydrates for an optimum performance diet and these should come from complex carbohydrates. Because fats take so long to digest the athlete who consumes excess fats before a race or competition will be at a disadvantage as he/she will feel the effects for up to 6 hours after ingestion. This can lead to fluid retention in the heart tissues which can cause angina and their oxygen delivery system would be slowed down.

Energy production

The energy the body requires to live, do everyday activities and cardio exercise such as long distance running, is generated by the sugar burning process in the body's cells known as aerobic respiration. Carbohydrate, fat and protein contribute to the fuel supply needed by the body to perform exercise. These nutrients get converted to energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is an energy-bearing coenzyme found in all living cells, and it is from the energy released by the breakdown of ATP that allows muscle cells to contract.

The formation of nucleic acids, transmission of nerve impulses, muscle contraction and many other energy-consuming reactions of metabolism are made possible by the energy in ATP molecules which are composed of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and phosphorus atoms. The energy in ATP can be released as heat or can be used in the cell as a power source to drive various types of chemical and mechanical activities. Adenosine triphosphate was first discovered in muscle tissue by scientists in Germany and the United States in 1929. Its role in the storage and supply of energy was first explained in 1941 by the German-American biochemist Fritz A. Lipmann.

Nutrients get converted to ATP based upon the intensity and duration of activity, with carbohydrate as the main nutrient fuelling exercise of a moderate to high intensity and fat providing energy during exercise that occurs at a lower intensity.

If exercising at a low intensity (or below 50% of the maximum heart rate), there will be enough stored fat to fuel activity for hours or even days as long as there is sufficient oxygen to allow fat metabolism to occur. As exercise intensity increases, carbohydrate metabolism takes over. It is more efficient than fat metabolism, but has limited energy stores.

This stored carbohydrate (glycogen) can fuel about two hours of moderate to high level exercise. After that, glycogen depletion occurs (stored carbohydrates are used up) and if that fuel is not instantly replaced an athlete may collapse. Glycogen is glucose which is stored in the liver and the muscles and lipid metabolism is one of the main ways that the body's glycogen  (glucose stored in the liver and muscles) store is replenished after exercise.

Starvation state

Normal body cells are able to create energy by using the food consumed and the oxygen inhaled to complete normal cellular respiration and make ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is the main cellular energy source. Most of this energy production happens in the mitochondria, tiny organelles which act as cell fuelling stations. Normally, the body does not use protein to produce energy, however, if it runs out of glycogen stores, and no glucose is available to replenish them, the body goes into a state of ‘starvation’ and will then resort to breaking down its own muscle tissue to release amino acids.

Muscle tissue is made up mostly of protein, which, in turn, is made up of amino acids. These amino acids are sent to the liver, where they are converted to glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis. When the body starts to use muscle tissue for energy, it loses muscle mass. The immune system antibodies, which are also made of protein, can also be used to provide energy which lowers the immune system response and can lead to an increase in infections.

The large polymeric molecules in food are broken down by digestion into their monomer sub-units: proteins in amino acids, polysaccharides into sugars and fats into fatty acids and glycerol through the action of enzymes. After digestion, the small organic molecules enter the cytosol of the cell where their gradual oxidation begins. Oxidation occurs in two further stages of catabolism.  

In stage two, a chain of reactions called glycolysis converts each molecule of glucose into two smaller molecules known as pyruvate. Sugars other than glucose are also converted into pyruvate after their conversion into one of the sugar intermediaries in this glycolytic pathway. In this pyruvate formation, two types of activated carrier molecules are produced known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide + hydrogen (NADH). The pyruvate then passes from the cytosol into the mitochondria. There each pyruvate molecule is converted into carbon dioxide plus a two-carbon acetyl group which becomes attached to coenzyme A (CoA) forming acetyl CoA. Large amounts of acetyl CoA are also produced by the breakdown and oxidation of fats which are carried in the bloodstream, imported into the cells as fatty acids and then moved into the mitochondria for acetyl CoA production.

Stage three of the oxidative breakdown of food molecules takes place entirely in the mitochondria. The acetyl group is linked to coenzyme A through a high-energy linkage and is easily transferrable to other molecules. After its transfer to the four-carbon molecule oxaloacetate, the acetyl group enters a series of reactions known as the citric acid cycle or the Kreb Cycle. The acetyl group is oxidised to carbon dioxide in these reactions and large amounts of the electron carrier, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide + hydrogen (NADH) are produced. The high-energy electrons from NADH are passed along an electron transport chain within the mitochondria inner membrane where the energy released by their transfer is used to drive a process which produces ATP and consumes molecular oxygen.

Adenosine triphosphate (containing 3 phosphates) is converted to adenosine diphosphate (containing 2 phosphates) with the release of energy. Adenosine diphosphate then passes into the mitochondria where adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is remade by oxidative phosphorylation.  This ATP recycling occurs approximately every 10 seconds in a normal person.

Anaerobic and aerobic burning

The terms aerobic and anaerobic refer to the presence and absence of oxygen, respectively.  Most of the body's cells prefer to get their energy by using oxygen to fuel metabolism.  During exercise with adequate fuel and oxygen (aerobic), muscle cells can contract repeatedly without fatigue.  During anaerobic or non-oxygen conditions (higher intensity exercise), muscle cells must rely on other reactions that do not require oxygen to fuel muscle contraction.  This anaerobic metabolism in the cells produces waste molecules that can impair muscle contractions.  This deterioration is known in sports performance as fatigue.

As exercise begins, adenosine triphosphate is produced via anaerobic metabolism. Anaerobic respiration occurs in the cytoplasm. This is effective for vigorous exercise of between one to three minutes duration, such as short sprints. If the intense exercise requires more energy than can be supplied by the oxygen available, the body will partially burn glucose without oxygen (anaerobic).

With an increase in breathing and heart rate there is more oxygen available and aerobic metabolism begins and continues until the lactate threshold is reached. If this level is surpassed, the body cannot deliver oxygen quickly enough to generate adenosine triphosphate and anaerobic metabolism takes over again. Since this system is short-lived and lactic acid levels rise, the intensity cannot be sustained and the athlete will need to decrease intensity to remove lactic acid build-up.

The Krebs cycle

The Krebs cycle, named after Hans Krebs, also known as the citric acid cycle or the or the tricarboxylic acid cycle, is the sequence of reactions by which most living cells generate energy. It takes place in the mitochondria producing carbon dioxide and water as waste products. Most summaries of the Krebs cycle will usually indicate that the cycle is an aerobic process (one that requires oxygen) that produces adenosine triphosphate by breaking down glucose. However, no oxygen is used in the cycle as can be seen from the equation below:

acetyl CoA + 3 NAD + FAD + ADP + HPO4-2 ---------> 2 CO2 + CoA + 3 NADH+ + FADH+ + ATP

In reality, the Krebs cycle is not only part of the pathway for the breakdown of glucose but also for the breakdown of all metabolites, including other sugars, amino acids and fatty acids. Each of these groups of molecules has a pathway that leads into the Krebs cycle. For example, carbohydrates are converted into acetyl CoA by the process of glycolysis while fatty acids are converted into acetyl CoA by the beta oxidation pathway. In each case, the molecules are converted into products that enter the Krebs cycle. In addition, intermediates from the Krebs cycle can go the other direction and be used to synthesize molecules such as amino acids and fatty acids. For example, acetyl CoA can be used to synthesize fatty acids. The Krebs cycle is usually shown as beginning with pyruvate instead of acetyl CoA. Pyruvate is a three carbon molecule that is primarily formed by glycolysis or from some amino acids. Pyruvate is converted to acetyl CoA in the mitochondrion and so serves as a direct connection to the Krebs cycle. This reaction is not really part of the Krebs cycle, however, since pyruvate is most often generated by glycolysis (which occurs in the cytoplasm of the cell) and the oxidation of pyruvate occurs in the mitochondrion which is associated with the cycle.

In simplified terms, the Krebs cycle is a part of respiration that is an ever-repeating cycle that produces adenosine triphosphate and gives off carbon dioxide. To summarize:

  • Two molecules of carbon dioxide are given off.

  • One molecule of adenosine triphosphate is formed.

  • Three molecules of NAD+ are combined with hydrogen (NAD+ → NADH)

  • One molecule of FAD+ combines with hydrogen (FAD+ → FADH)

Because two acetyl-CoA molecules are produced from each glucose molecule, two cycles are required per glucose molecule. Therefore, at the end of two cycles, the products are: two ATP, six NADH2, two FADH2 two QH2 (ubiquinol) and four CO2.Marathon runner by Nat H Hawes

At the end of the Krebs cycle, the final product is oxaloacetic acid. This is identical to the oxaloacetic acid that begins the cycle. Now the molecule is ready to accept another acetyl-CoA molecule to begin another turn of the Krebs cycle.

Some runners and dancers may develop an emaciated upper body because they fail to give the body time to recover between runs and training sessions to allow the refuelling of glycogen in their muscles. In normal activity it takes about 24 hours before the liver is relieved of its glycogen stores, however runners and dancers will use up far more far faster and many will train more than once every 24-48 hours which means the liver will fail to regenerate enough glycogen to replenish its store.

Once the glycogen stores of the liver run out, the body turns firstly to fatty acids for fuel, breaking down the fatty acids in the reserves of fat in the body and around the organs. It not only takes the glucose from glycerol in the fat tissues but also the amino acids in muscle, thus beginning the process of muscle deterioration. When the body cannot gain the energy it requires using glucose via the Krebs Cycle it begins to use nitrogen from amino acids to create a molecule very similar to glucose to feed the starved muscles. This means these amino acids used can no longer be used to build tissues and the body goes into a state of protein deficiency regardless of how much protein is being consumed. The first muscles to suffer losses are those of the neck, chest, shoulders and upper arms.


Ketosis is a condition in which levels of ketones (ketone bodies) in the blood are elevated. If there is not enough glucose (from carbohydrates) in the bloodstream the body draws on fat stores for fuel, causing the appearance of ketones in the blood. Ketones are formed by the liver from fatty acids when glycogen stores in the liver have run out. They are small carbon fragments that are the fuel created by the breakdown of fat stores. When ketone levels are elevated the body switches from being a carbohydrate-burning organism into a fat-burning one.

Some people, including doctors, get the dangerous condition of ketoacidosis confused with normal benign dietary ketosis but they are different conditions. Normal nutritional ketosis is not dangerous. Every person alive goes into mild ketosis each time they go without eating for 6-8 hours. Unless an individual is a Type 1 diabetic (meaning the pancreas makes no insulin at all) or a Type 2 diabetic with a dysfunctional pancreas, ketosis is kept in check by the presence of insulin in the body. Insulin not only regulates blood sugar levels it also regulates the flow of fatty acids from the body’s fat cells.

As long as insulin is circulating within the body the flow of fatty acids and the production of ketone bodies is highly regulated and limited to a range that is not dangerous. Ketones consist of acetone, acetoacetate or beta-hydroxybutyrate and very high ketone levels can be toxic, making the blood more acid, hence the name ketoacidosis, and this may damage such organs as the kidneys and liver. Ketoacidosis can also occur with alcoholism, starvation and with a low-carbohydrate, high fat/protein diet. The human body tries to lower ketone levels by breathing it out causing a sweet and fruity breath. It also reduces keytone levels by expelling them through the urine. See also Diabetes.


Protein is a large complex molecule comprising of a combination of 20 different amino acids and provides the building blocks for life when it is broken down into these separate amino acids. Amino acids are compounds that contain carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and sometimes sulphur. They link together in specific numbers and unique combinations to make each different protein. Accounting for 20% of the body weight, proteins perform a wide variety of functions throughout the body as essential structural components of body tissues, enzymes and immune cells.

Protein helps the body to form and grow new tissue, therefore helping to build muscle and repair damage to the body. Muscle, cartilage, ligaments, hair, nail and skin consist mostly of protein.10,000 different proteins may exist in a single cell of the body and each one requires a different arrangement of amino acids. A typical protein may contain 300 or more amino acids. The sequence of amino acids determines each protein’s unique 3-dimensional structure and its specific function and to make protein, cells must have all the needed amino acids available simultaneously.

Ideal protein intake levelsRugby player by Nat H Hawes

The dietary requirement of of protein for humans depends upon factors such as age, body weight, lean body mass (body weight minus fat weight) and physical activity levels including the type, intensity and frequency of training during sporting activities. Inactive and elderly people may need very little protein to function optimally while Olympic strength athletes may need large amounts of protein just to keep up with their demanding schedules. The averagely active person falls somewhere in between but pregnant or breast feeding women will need extra protein in their diet.

The daily protein requirement is usually expressed in grams. The recommended daily protein requirements for humans are derived from an ideal body weight. The ideal body weight is calculated based on height and is slightly higher for men than women. See the Body Mass Index Chart.

Protein requirements can also be expressed in terms of total caloric intake. The daily protein requirement of an averagely active person, between 19 and 50 years old and of ideal weight, should be between 10% to 15% of the daily caloric intake or 0.6 g of protein per kilogram bodyweight per day.

If someone is doing endurance training and intense dance performances their daily protein requirement increases to 1 to 1.2 grams per kilogram of ideal body weight per day. The daily protein requirements do not increase for people over their ideal body weight because amino acids are not needed to support fat cells. Although individuals who are involved with intense physical activities will need a little more protein, they should not exceed the recommended amount as the adverse health effects of a protein-rich diet can be very harmful.

Dangers of excess protein

When the body synthesises protein, ammonia (uric acid) is formed in the liver as a waste product, and too large amounts of protein into the diet can result in too much ammonia being formed and in so doing place extra stress on the liver and kidneys to flush it out the body. High levels of ammonia are toxic to the nervous system, with symptoms that include vomiting and tremors and can lead to coma and death.

Eating too much protein-rich food over a long period of time can cause the liver to become overworked, allowing ammonia and other toxic substances to build up in the bloodstream. This can lead to hepatic encephalopathy, a condition marked by a decline in brain and nervous system function. It can also adversely affect the digestive system causing constipation, diarrhoea and/or excessive gas.

Excessive protein intake can also cause a toxic build-up of ketones, which can harm the kidneys.  If nitrogen intake exceeds nitrogen excretion, as can occur with high-protein diets, excess protein leaves the body accompanied by calcium, increasing the risk for kidney stones and osteoporosis.  Excess protein from meat and too little fibre can lead to colon disorders including cancer.

Each gram of protein has four calories. If 100 grams of protein are consumed, but the body can only use 50 grams of it, the extra 200 calories' worth of protein will be stored as fat. Doing this daily can cause an excess of 1,400 extra calories per week, resulting in a weight gain of almost two pounds per month.

Many high-protein foods, particularly from animal sources, contain an abundance of cholesterol, which contributes to the development of hardened arteries that can lead to serious medical conditions, such as heart attack and stroke.

The human body relies primarily on fat and carbohydrates for energy. With excessive protein intake, the diet might fall short of the recommended dietary consumption of these energy sources. The body can break down proteins for fuel if needed, but it requires more energy and resources to do so, making it less efficient. A low-carbohydrate diet might impact endurance meaning the individual will not be able to exercise for very long.

Protein metabolism is a process that requires more water, which can, in turn, lead to dehydration. Experts suggest that at least two litres of water should be consumed for every 100 grams of protein consumed.

Protein breakdown also increases the demand for oxygen. When an individual exercises vigorously, the body turns to carbohydrates for energy because it is more efficient and this process requires oxygen. Excess protein consumption can deprive the body of the oxygen it needs to fuel activity, further impacting athletic performance.

See more about protein

Egg whites and biotineggs

Many athletes consume a high amount of eggs but are unaware that the egg white can cause vitamin B7 (biotin) deficiencies. There are high levels of a protein called avidin in raw egg whites which binds to biotin which may cause a deficiency of this vitamin if consumed over a few months. Ironically the nervous system can  be affected by a biotin deficiency and this can lead to a lack of good muscle tone, lack of coordination and seizures. Muscle cramps, related to physical exertion, can also be a symptom as the body will have an impaired system to effectively use sugar as fuel.

When cooked, avidin is partially denatured and binding to biotin is reduced. However one study showed that 30-40% of the avidin activity was still present in the white after frying or boiling so consumption of cooked egg whites should be limited to about three times a week whereas egg yolks, that contain most of the nutrients and no avidin, should be consumed more often. The other alternative is to eat extra foods rich in vitamin B7 the same day as eating egg whites. See Vitamin B7

Positive and negative energy balance

A 'Positive Energy Balance' means that more energy is being taken in than is being burned. For example: if 2300 calories are ingested but only 2000 calories are burned, a positive energy balance of 300 calories has been created. If this happens every day, 1lb (454 grams) of weight will be gained every 12 days.

A Negative Energy Balance works in reverse where more energy is being burned than taken in. therefore if 2000 calories are being taken in and 2,300 calories are being burned there will be a negative energy balance of 300 calories and, if this happens every day, 1lb (454 grams) of weight will be lost every 12 days.

Total energy expenditure has three major components, which, added together, provide an accurate measure of an individual’s daily caloric requirement: the basal metabolic rate (BMR), the energy used for physical activity and the thermic effect of food. Energy must be provided for maintaining a heartbeat, breathing, regulating body temperature and carrying out other activities.


Energy comes into the human body as food that is consumed and the measure of the energy is in calories. A calorie is the amount of heat needed to heat one gram of water one degree Celsius. Calories are the energy stored in food and as they are taken into the body, the energy is either transformed or stored. As it goes through the system, some energy leaves the body as faecal energy which cannot be counted and other energy is lost through the urinary system. What is not lost in these two ways is available for metabolism. One of the biggest energy expenditures in the human body is thermic (heat) energy. Thermic energy differentiates an endoderm (mammal) from an ectoderm (reptile). The endoderm's basal metabolism is eight to 10 times higher than for an ectoderm. So tremendous amounts of the energy that humans use is for thermic energy. That which is not used for thermic energy is then available as net energy for the body's cellular reproduction, growth (especially in children), work (muscle movement) and storage and the common storage form is fat.

Thermogenesis means the creation of heat. There are three types of thermogenesis. The first kind is work-induced from exercise. It is necessary for muscles to create heat because warm muscles work much more effectively than cold muscles. The next form is called thermo-regulatory thermogenesis. This is involved with keeping the temperature of the human body regulated. The average body temperature is 98.7 degrees (F). There are two types of thermo-regulatory thermogenesis: shivering and non-shivering. Shivering helps the body create heat. The skeletal muscles create the shivering and this heats up the body. The non-shivering thermogenesis fits into the third classification, which is called diet-induced thermogenesis. The part of the body responsible for this mechanism in humans as well as other mammals is the brown fat tissue (adipose tissue).

The thermogenic system of the body is triggered by the sympathetic nervous system. Under conditions of cold or eating a lot of food, the hypothalamus gland can register this and then trigger the sympathetic nervous system. The consequences of thermogenesis is a loss of appetite and a rise in energy due to the increase in metabolism of about 10% just after eating.


Out of all the components of food, protein, carbohydrates, fat and alcohol contain calories. Protein and carbohydrates have four calories per gram, fat has nine calories per gram and alcohol has seven calories per gram. Diets aimed at decreasing body fat and maintaining muscle mass require a relatively high amount of protein intake. Depending on gender and physical activity, the daily recommended protein intake (per bodyweight-kilograms) can vary from 1.5 grams to 3 grams.

Most experts claim that 20-30% of the energy intake should come from fats which translates to around 300 calories and can be provided by a daily intake of 33 grams fat. A 1500 calorie daily diet should consist of 105 grams protein, 195 grams carbs and 33 grams fat. Naturally, these are not strict numbers to follow as height, weight, metabolism and activity levels are factors to consider. The given amount of calories and nutrients should be divided into at least four meals a day for averagely active people and six smaller meals a day for those in intense training. Consuming meals and snacks at regular intervals four to six times per day ensures that there are always nutrients available for repair and the replenishment of glycogen stores. Eating smaller meals more often allows for dietary thermogenesis to take place which increases the metabolic rate and balances blood sugar and insulin levels in the blood as well as controlling the cholesterol levels in the blood. For athletes in training, eating six times a day also causes the replenishment of glycogen stores to take place at a faster pace and significantly reduces fat deposits.

The following are the approximate calories burned in one hour by an average height and build person.

General and occupational activities


Calories burned in one hour

Fire-fighter (climbing ladders in full gear)


Chopping wood, digging


Carrying bags or boxes upstairs, sawing wood by hand


Walking fast


Labour jobs, masseuse (standing), brick laying, carpet fitting, painting and decorating, gardening


Vacuuming floors, electrical work, plumbing, carpentry


Sweeping floors


Washing car, cleaning windows, polishing, carrying infants


Driving, power boating, office work, making beds


Washing dishes, ironing, standing occupation, teacher, bar tending, shelf filling


Sitting watching TV, reading, sleeping, typing



  • Every 10 upward steps burns one and a half calories

  • Every 20 steps down burns one calorie.



Calories burned in one hour

Aerobics, high impact


Aerobics, general


Aerobics, low impact


Ballet, jazz, jitterbug, modern, street, tap, twist


General dancing including  ballroom, belly, country, disco, flamenco, folk, hula, Irish, foxtrot, Greek, line, Maypole, Middle Eastern, Morris, polka, belly, square  and swing dancing


Slow ballroom, slow Waltz, salsa, samba, tango, 19th century, mambo, chacha


Sports and hobbies


Calories burned in one hour

Boxing, handball, roller blading, in-line skating, Jai alai, rope jumping (fast), squash, rowing (competitively 6 mph), skin diving


Rock climbing (ascending), swimming butterfly stroke, swimming, crawl, fast (75 yards/minute)


Football (competitive), martial arts, judo, jujitsu, karate, kick boxing, tae kwan do, kwon, paddle ball, racquetball, rope jumping (moderate), rugby, steeplechase, hurdles, swimming breast stroke, water polo


Orienteering, step treadmill




Basketball game, hockey, lacrosse, polo, rope jumping (slow), tennis (singles), volleyball (competitive), rock climbing (rappelling), swimming, crawl, slow (50 yards/minute), synchronised swimming, horse racing (galloping), circuit training, push-us, sit-ups


Badminton (competitive), football casual, tennis general, skating, kickball, scuba diving, swimming backstroke, skiing, sledding, tobogganing


Basketball wheelchair, horseback riding (trotting)


Car or bike racing, fencing, wrestling, basketball (non-game), boxing (punch bag), tennis (doubles), high jump, long jump, triple jump, javelin, pole vault, water skiing, weight training


Cricket, baseball, badminton, running, sailing (competitive), white water rafting, kayaking, playing a drum kit, snorkelling, children's games: hopscotch, skateboarding etc


Leisurely walking, golf


Gymnastics, curling, juggling, motor cross, table tennis, ping pong, tai chi, shot, discus, hammer throw, volleyball (non-competitive), canoeing, water aerobics, paddle boat


Archery (non-hunting), hang gliding, sky diving, trampoline


Bowling, frisbee playing, horseshoe pitching, quoits, rowing (leisurely 3 mph), surfing,  windsurfing, playing a musical instrument standing, ocean sailing (non-competitive)


Darts, croquet, billiards, horseback riding (walking), power boating, yoga


Sitting while playing a musical instrument (except drums)


Carbohydrate loading

Energy is stored in the muscles in the form of glycogen. Carbohydrates are converted to glycogen during digestion for use by the body as fuel. The muscles typically store only enough to support recreational activities and exercise, which is why eating throughout the day is important to maintain energy. However, during endurance events, such as triathlons or marathons, the body will exhaust the energy supply stored before the athlete has a chance to restore the fuel to their muscles. This is where carbohydrate loading may have an impact. Having the extra glycogen allows the athlete to compete the endurance event without using all the energy stored before the finish but is only effective for events lasting longer than 90 minutes. Scandinavian researchers developed carbohydrate loading over 30 years ago.

Carb-loading is used to be a process that took approximately a week to achieve. It involved a three day depletion phase followed by a three day saturation phase. However, if athletes increase dietary carbohydrate intake the last three days before an event with rest, and forego the three day depletion method, the increased glycogen stores achieved can be almost the same without the negative side effects.

Carbohydrate loading saturates the muscles with glycogen, which helps keep an athlete from being fatigued. After loading, performance may increase because the athlete may not need to slow down as much towards the end of the event because the muscles do not feel as exhausted. Exhausted muscles can lead to cramps or injuries. An athlete on a 2,500 calorie diet will need to consume between 437 g and 468 g of carbohydrate in a day. Women often have to increase their carbohydrate intake more than men.

Contradictions of carb-loading

When the body notices that sugar is elevated, it is a sign that there is more than is needed; it is not being burned so it is accumulating in the blood. So insulin will be released to take that sugar and store it. The body stores very little glycogen at any one time. All the glycogen stored in in the liver and muscle will not last an individual through one active day. Once the glycogen stores are full, that sugar is stored as saturated fat, 98 percent of which is palmitic acid. Excess palmitic acid is toxic to skeletal muscle cells, impairing glucose uptake and increasing insulin resistance. It also induces inflammation and disrupts insulin signalling which can lead to diabetes.

  • Blood sugar changes: Loading up on carbohydrates can create a significant swing in blood sugar glucose. The sudden change from an athletic training diet of adequate levels of protein, carbohydrates and fats to mainly carbohydrates will increase the blood sugar content in the days preceding competition. The result of higher blood sugar will trigger the body to produce insulin in an attempt to process the blood sugar and get it into the muscles for use as energy. This can cause mood swings, depression, memory lapses and a general feeling of fogginess in the brain. Carb-loading can be dangerous for diabetics and should not be attempted.

  • Digestive discomfort: A boost in carbohydrate intake may cause the digestive tract to become deluged with hard-to-digest fibre. Fibre is not digested by the human system and is generally passed through the body. Excess fibre can cause diarrhoea, flatulence and stomach rumbling as it makes its way through the gastrointestinal tract.

  • Distended abdomen, chest pain and bloating due to the increase in fibre ingestion.

  • Elevations in stress hormones resulting in muscle loss, cell membrane damage, ketosis and other metabolic alterations can occur during the depletion phase.

  • Muscle stiffness: For every gram of stored glycogen, the body's muscles will store about three grams of water. This means that during the carb-loading phase, the muscles can become stiff and full and may feel slightly sore and the athlete may become lethargic and clumsy.

  • Weight gain: Loading up on carbohydrates will most likely cause weight gain. The increase in body fat stores over a few days of carb-loading will be negligible in the long run, however, extra muscle glycogen and increased water holding within the muscles can lead to a body weight increase of several pounds during the loading phase. Body fat may also increase during this time, as a sudden extra caloric load will trigger the body to store non-needed calories.

NOTE: Carb-loading does not work on racing animals such as dogs and horses and can be very detrimental to their health as any suddenly change in their diet can cause diarrhoea and vomiting leading to dehydration and heat-stroke.

Dieting when in trainingRacing horse and jockey

In order to train hard whilst losing weight an athlete should ensure that the energy from carbohydrates is at least 60% which will prevent muscle loss in both aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Rest and recuperation, of an appropriate time, is also important between intense  training sessions to allow the repletion of glycogen stores. This will ensure that lean tissue is not lost through protein oxidation due to depletion of glycogen stores during training.

It is recommended that no more than 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) is lost per week by an athlete when training. It takes a weekly deficit of 3500 calories to lose one pound of weight and the  target should be a 300-600 a day calorie deficit for health and well-being. It is advised that dieting is not undertaken by those in intense training.

The recommended approximate protein intake necessary to maintain muscle mass during weight loss for an athlete in training  is 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. For individuals that do little physical activity the recommended amount of protein is 0.75 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.

Wright loss planning in five steps

Step 1: It is important to clearly define the goals of weight loss by writing them down. These goals should be rational, optimistic, practical and sensibly obtainable such as a realistic amount of weight loss desired in a sensible time-frame and the desire to lose this weight should be for the right reasons such as performance capabilities rather than body image especially for those of a normal weight.

Step 2: Record the changes in body shape through noting the circumference of arms, chest, hips, legs and waist as well as by way of callipers to measure skin fold thickness. If weight is being lost more from the upper body such as the chest and arms it may be a sign that muscle mass is being lost through protein being used as fuel instead of carbohydrates.

Step 3: Aim to steadily lose up to two pounds (907 grams) of weight per week bearing in mind that this will not indicate how much actual body fat is being lost especially in the first week where as much as five pounds (2.27 kilograms) may be lost but will consist mostly of glycogen and the water with which it is combined. One pound (454 grams) of glycogen is stored with four pounds (1.81 kilograms) of water.

Step 4: An accurate recording of food and drink intake should be kept and should include the weight and calorific value of every morsel of food and drink that is ingested over the period of at least three days (including a weekend day) but preferably seven days. It can also help to show the organic and inorganic nutrient intake which will help with planning of meals so that vitamins, minerals, protein, fibre, carbohydrates and fats are correctly balanced.

Step 5: Carry out a detailed dietary analysis of all food and drink intake which will show the calorific content and energy provided from carbohydrates, fats and proteins in the diet which should consist of at least 60% carbohydrate calories, 15-25% fat and 15-20% protein.

Rapid weight loss dangers

During rapid weight loss, levels of vitamin B1 (thiamine), magnesium and zinc can drop below normal recommended levels and glycogen stores may also become depleted which can lead to muscle mass being lost, which can negatively affect an athletic performance. It can also lead to impaired thermoregulation and dehydration and if just 2-3% of body weight is lost through dehydration there will be a 5% reduction in aerobic capacity.

Studies have also shown that rapid weight loss can negatively affect the mood state and cognitive function, decreasing concentration, self-esteem, short term memory and vigour as well as increasing confusion, depression, fatigue, isolation and rage. When the normal water content of the body is reduced, it upsets the balance of mineral salts and sugar which affects the way that the body functions and can lead to constipation, headaches and lethargy. Dancers, weight lifters and boxers are often under pressure to lose weight rapidly and may cause themselves serious health issues. Jockeys and cyclists are especially at risk when trying to rapidly reduce their weight in order to win races.

The development of gall stones can also be a result of rapid weight loss.


Body fluid can be lost through perspiration during exercise, exhalation of water vapour in the breath, tears, vomiting and diarrhoea. Fluid lost through exercise is due to the heat produced which causes the body to send fluid to the skin to be evaporated to cool the body down to the safe level of around 37 ° to 38 ° C (98.6 ° to 100 ° F).

The harder and longer an individual exercises the more fluid is lost. High environmental temperatures and humidity are also factors that cause more body fluid to be lost. In hot weather, long distance runners can lose up to two litres of water per hour.  However, on average, sweat losses equate to approximately one litre of fluid for each hour of exercise. Some individuals sweat more than others depending on their metabolism, temperature regulating abilities and size and men tend to sweat more than women. Diarrhoea and vomiting will also cause extra fluids to be lost.

Dehydration overworks the lungs, heart and circulatory systems making it difficult to pump enough blood around the body and regulate the body’s temperature which reduces performance abilities. Blood transports oxygen to the muscles for activities such as exercise.  If there is not enough oxygen in the blood, the muscles create lactic acid which causes painful cramps. Drinking more water helps to keep the blood pumped with oxygen. When just 2% of water is lost an athlete’s performance can be reduce by 10-20%. When 4% of water is lost it can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea and this causes even more fluids to be lost and can also lead to a potassium deficiency which can cause nervous and body tiredness, palpitations of the heart and cloudiness of the mind. An 8% loss of water can cause confusion, dizziness, laboured breathing and weakness and further losses can have serious consequences as follows:

  • Dehydration can lead to a condition called hypernatraemia which is when sodium becomes concentrated in the blood due to lack of water and can cause confusion, lethargy, irritability, tremors, weakness, swelling, seizures and even coma if not corrected in time. It must be corrected very gradually as cerebral oedema can occur if water is replaced too quickly.

  • A healthy hydrated body removes waste with light yellow virtually odourless urine.  The darker urine is the more highly concentrated the waste products that linger in the bladder, leaving an individual prone to cystitis and kidney infections.

  • Three quarters of the brain is water which is required to flush out toxins, therefore a lack of water can reduce this process and cause neurological disorders and headaches. Always drink a large glass of water before going to bed especially after drinking alcohol.

  • When dehydrated, toxins remain in the liver which can cause fatigue and reduce the ability to concentrate.

  • Without water the contents of the colon (lower intestine) can dry out and become trapped which can eventually lead to diverticulitis.  Constipation can also be a problem, because water is needed to bulk out faeces.

  • Dehydration weakens the flow of lymph in the system and makes the body less resistant to infection.

  • Severe dehydration can lead to heat stroke and can be fatal.

Mulberries promote proper body fluid production which helps individuals to recover faster from dehydration.


Pineapple is a useful addition to the diet when training as it can help to rehydrate and remove heavy metals, microbes, parasites and toxins from the body as well as reduce inflammation and aid with digestion. Pineapple is an excellent source of iodine, manganese and potassium and a good source of vitamin B1 (thiamine). The vitamin B1 helps to increase metabolism by converting carbohydrates into energy. This can help with weigh loss as can pineapple's rich fibre content which takes longer to digest providing a 'full' feeling for longer. The potassium in pineapple can help to balance electrolytes which can reduce cramps.

Sports drinks

Sports drinks  fall into one of three categories, isotonic, hypotonic or hypertonic, based on their carbohydrate and electrolyte concentrations. Isotonic and hypotonic drinks are the most usually consumed during exercise. The benefits of drinking sports drinks are that scientists have studied what an athlete requires to replace loss fluids more efficiently and acquire extra energy and discovered that carbohydrates and electrolytes are also important as well as water and hence these are now added to sports drinks. Carbohydrates help to replace glycogen losses and provide instant energy and electrolytes, especially sodium, potassium, chloride and magnesium, are critical in allowing cells to generate energy, maintain the stability of their walls and to function in general. They generate electricity, contract muscles, move water and fluids within the body and participate in myriad other activities.

The concentration of electrolytes in the body is controlled by a variety of hormones, most of which are manufactured in the kidney and the adrenal glands. Sensors in specialised kidney cells monitor the amount of sodium, potassium and water in the bloodstream. The body functions in a very narrow range of normal and it is hormones like renin (made in the kidney), angiotensin (from the lung, brain and heart), aldosterone (from the adrenal gland), and the anti-diuretic hormone (from the pituitary gland) that keep the electrolyte balance within those normal limits. Keeping electrolyte concentrations in balance also includes stimulating the thirst mechanism when the body gets dehydrated which is why sports drinks contain electrolytes, especially sodium, are beneficial during exercise.

Fluid replacement can be speeded up by ensuring that as much water as possible, is consumed at the start of exercising.  If more rapid fluid replacement is a priority, hypotonic drinks are the most appropriate. These contain very low levels of carbohydrates and electrolytes and are suitable for athletes such as gymnasts who require fluid rather than energy provision.  Drinks that contains a sodium solution have. the effect of stimulating water absorption from the small intestine which speeds up rehydration.

During hot weather or strenuous training sessions, athletes should consume 150-250 ml (5-8 oz) of water containing diluted carbohydrates and electrolytes about every 20 minutes. Isotonic drinks have the same osmolality as plasma (the liquid part of blood) so are absorbed quickly. The carbohydrate content of 4% to 8% is sufficient to provide a useful amount of energy but not so high as to hinder fluid absorption. Therefore, during exercise, this formulation strikes a balance between fluid replacement and fuel supply.

Fluid replacement dosage

To offset fluid losses, it is suggested that 150 to 250 ml of fluid should be drunk every 15 minutes. The choice of drink depends on the intensity and duration of the activity. If an individual is exercising for less than 30 minutes the best drink would be water only. If exercise is of low to moderate intensity lasting for one hour then water or a hypotonic or isotonic sports drink would be the best choice. An athlete exercising strenuously for one to two hours would be best choosing a hypotonic or isotonic sports drink. An athlete doing strenuous exercise for more than 90 minutes under cool conditions, where they do not sweat too much, would need extra fuel rather than fluids and therefore hypotonic or isotonic sports drinks or carbohydrate (glucose polymer) drink would be the best choice.






Fluid, electrolytes, 4 -8% carbohydrate

Fluid replacement during and after exercise. Fuel supply during exercise.


Fluid, very low electrolyte and carbohydrate content (<4%)

Rapid fluid replacement without energy provision.


Fluid, electrolytes, high level of carbohydrate (>10%)

Post-exercise glycogen replenishment. Not suitable for rehydration during exercise

After exercise a hypertonic drink which contains  electrolytes and a high level of carbohydrate (>10%) is best for glycogen replenishment. The presence of water, sugar (in the form of lactose) and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) in milk make it another good choice of drink as a recovery solution after exercise as it also contains calcium and protein. Coconut water and pineapple juice can also help with rehydration as they replace lost electrolytes and vitamins.

Home-made natural sports drinks



  • 1 litre warm mineral water (to dissolve sucrose)

  • 2040 g sucrose

  • 11.5 g unrefined sea salt or Himalayan pink salt crystals

  • fruit juice (no added sugar) for flavouring

  • 1 litre warm mineral water (to dissolve sucrose)

  • 4080 g sucrose

  • 11.5 g unrefined sea salt

  • fruit juice (no added sugar) for flavouring

  • 900 ml mineral water

  • 100 ml fruit squash

  • 11.5 g unrefined sea salt or Himalayan pink salt crystals

  • 800 ml mineral water

  • 200 ml fruit squash

  • 11.5 g unrefined sea salt or Himalayan pink salt crystals

  • 750 ml mineral water

  • 250 ml fruit juice (no added sugar)

  • 11.5 g salt unrefined sea salt or Himalayan pink salt crystals

  • 500 ml mineral water

  • 500 ml fruit juice (no added sugar)

  • 11.5 g unrefined sea salt or Himalayan pink salt crystals


Over-hydrating can lead to exercise-associated hyponatraemia (EAH), a condition when the body has too much water relative to salt. Neurological issues are a possible outcome of over-hydration. Symptoms can include cloudy thinking, nausea, headaches and, in severe cases, confusion, seizures and coma.

Stay hydrated throughout the day by switching to a plant-based diet which has a high water-content diet. For instance, a large salad with romaine lettuce, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, spring onions and pine nuts contains a significant amount of water. Follow that with a pear, pineapple or an orange or some other juicy fruit and enough water will have been consumed to last around half the day.


Caffeine has a mild diuretic effect, which increases urination and fluid loss. Water soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C and the B vitamins and minerals are depleted quickly as a result of this fluid loss and even more so in an athlete who is training hard. In addition, caffeine interferes with the metabolism of some B vitamins, such as vitamin B1 (thiamine).  Thiamine serves as a coenzyme in the chemical pathway responsible for the metabolism of carbohydrates which means that an athlete taking a drink containing caffeine will experience a reduction in energy, immediately after the initial mental stimulation and alertness.

Some people experience side-effects from consuming drinks containing caffeine such as heart palpitations and nervous irritability and this may be due to a deficiency of vitamin B1. Other symptoms of B1 deficiency are:

  • Abdominal pain

  • Anorexia

  • Apathy

  • Appetite loss

  • Constipation

  • Depression

  • Drowsiness

  • Enlarged liver

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Gastrointestinal disturbances

  • Heart changes

  • Laboured breathing

  • Memory loss and forgetfulness

  • Muscle aches and weakness and limb pains

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Nervousness

  • Numbness of the hands and feet

  • Oedema

  • Pain and sensitivity

  • Poor concentration and coordination

  • Swollen joints

  • Tingling sensations

Caffeine blocks the absorption of inositol, also known as vitamin B8.  Inositol assists the other B vitamins to function more effectively and plays an important part in the health of cell membranes especially the specialised cells in the brain, bone marrow, eyes and intestines. Inositol is closely related to choline and  the two work together to make neurotransmitters and the fatty substances for cell membranes, as well as helping to metabolise and move out fats from the liver. Inositol is a ‘second messenger’, triggering the release of calcium in cells. but its most important role seems to be in the central nervous system, where it serves to help transmit messages along neural pathways. Because it acts like a natural analgesic, reducing pain from trauma or damage, a lack of this vitamin can increase pain caused by injury.

Caffeine also inhibits the vitamin D receptors which limits the amount that will be absorbed. Because vitamin D is important in the absorption and use of calcium in building bone, this could also decrease bone mineral density, resulting in an increased risk for osteoporosis. It also causes loss of minerals from the bones, (osteomalacia) where the bones are sore and tender and muscles become weak with the possibility of deafness developing eventually.

Caffeine also causes calcium to be excreted in the urine and faeces. For every 150 mg of caffeine ingested, (about the amount in one cup of coffee), 5 mg of calcium is lost. This effect occurs even hours after the consumption of caffeine and can lead to weak bones and an increased risk of fractures.

Caffeine also reduces the absorption of copper, manganese and zinc and increases the excretion of the minerals magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. Consequently, fluid absorption from the intestines is reduced which can lead to dehydration for an athlete in training.

There is evidence that caffeine interferes with the action of vitamin A and the body's absorption of iron, which is necessary for energy and red blood cell production. Drinking anything that contains caffeine at the same time as an iron source can reduce absorption by up to 80%.

Caffeine overworks the adrenal glands, slows sports performance and increases weight and excess caffeine ingestion can cause diarrhoea, insomnia, visual problems, muscle twitching and convulsions.

With all these adverse effects in mind, caffeine is a substance that should be avoided by athletes, especially as the Olympics Committee cannot make up their minds about whether it should be banned or not and hence keep changing the permitted levels allowed in competitions.

For the highest natural food sources of the above nutrients see:


Alcohol has a negative effect on an athlete's performance because, like caffeine, alcohol affects the body's ability to absorb vitamin A, most of the B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, protein, calcium, iron and phosphorus and causes the expulsion of zinc in the urine. Zinc deficiency can cause cadmium toxicity which affects the bones because copper, together with zinc improves the absorption of vitamin D, the vitamin which aids in the absorption of calcium. Cadmium has been known to cause bone and joint aches and pains and can lead to fragile and easily broken bones. Drinking alcohol can cause the following all of which have a negative effect on an athlete’s performance:

  • Acid reflux.

  • Aggression.

  • Altered hormone functions.

  • Anxiety.

  • Depression.

  • Diarrhoea.

  • Increases the risk of accident or injury.

  • Insomnia.

  • Lowers blood sugar levels.

  • Nausea.

  • Paranoia.

  • Peptic stomach ulcers.

  • Intensifies ketoacidosis.

  • Raises blood pressure.

  • Impairs balance, coordination, judgement and memory.

  • Reduces the body’s ability to regulate body temperature.

  • Reduces endurance, power, reaction time, speed and strength.

  • Increases urination which causes dehydration

Alcohol withdrawal causes symptoms such as severe muscle cramping, nausea, hallucinations and sleeplessness which will also have an adverse effect on an athlete's performance.

Permitted levels of alcohol

On non-training days, moderate alcohol consumption (3-4 units per day for men and 2-3 units for women), especially red wine, can have a beneficial effect on the heart and may lower the risk of cancer and heart disease cause by atherosclerosis. One unit is equivalent to 10 ml or 8 g of pure alcohol. There are approximately:

  • 2.1 units in a standard glass (175 ml) of average-strength wine (12%)

  • 3 units in a large glass (250 ml) of average-strength wine (12%)

  • 2 units in a pint of low-strength lager, beer or cider (3.6%)

  • 3 to 5 units in a pint of higher-strength lager, beer or cider (5 - 8%)

  • 1 unit in a single measure of spirits (25 ml)

It takes approximately one hour for the body to break down one unit of alcohol, but this can vary depending on:

  • Age

  • Gender (male or female)

  • How much food has been consumed

  • How quickly or slowly the body turns food into energy (metabolism)

  • How much food has been consumed

  • The type and strength of the alcohol

  • Weight

  • What medications are being taken

It will take longer if the liver is not working normally. If a few drinks are consumed during a night out, it can take many hours for the alcohol to leave the body which will have a negative effect on an athlete’s performance the next day therefore, the recommended intake of alcohol for athletes on non-training days must stay below the above units.

The body clock and sports performance

Performance times varied by 26% throughout the day. The body clock controls everything from alertness to the risk of a heart attack, in a daily rhythm. Early risers reached their athletic and mental peak around lunchtime, while night owls perform best in the evening.

  • Larks - or early risers - peak at 12:00

  • Intermediate types peak just before 16:00

  • Owls - or late types - peak not long before 20:00

Athletes and coaches would benefit greatly if they knew when the optimal or suboptimal performance time was. Only by taking internal time into account can true and fair assessments of human performance become possible.

Over training and glycogen

Overtraining syndrome frequently occurs in athletes and dancers who are training for competitions or a specific event and train beyond the body's ability to recover. Athletes often exercise longer and harder so they can improve. But without adequate rest and recovery, these training regimens can actually decrease performance. One of the typical symptoms of over training is a decrease in muscle size and strength. Other signs of over training can be:

  • Decreased appetite.

  • Decreased immunity (increased number of colds and infections).

  • Decrease in training capacity or endurance.

  • Depression.

  • Fatigue, tired, drained, lack of energy.

  • Headaches.

  • Insomnia.

  • Irritability.

  • Loss of enthusiasm for the sport.

  • Mild leg soreness, general aches and pains.

  • Pain in muscles and joints.

  • Sudden drop in performance.


The body stores enough glycogen to last 12 to 14 hours of daily activity. That same amount of glycogen will also provide enough fuel for two hours of sustained exercise. If carbohydrates are consumed immediately after exercise, the body is able to retain up to 50 percent more glycogen. The muscle glycogen concentration can vary greatly depending on training status, exercise routines and diet. The pattern of muscle glycogen resynthesis following exercise-induced depletion is biphasic. Following the cessation of exercise and with adequate carbohydrate consumption, muscle glycogen is rapidly resynthesised to near pre-exercise levels within 24 hours. Muscle glycogen then increases very gradually to above-normal levels over the next few days. However, depending on the length of exercise and muscle fibres involved, it can take between 22 hours to four days to completely replenish the glycogen supply. This is why it is important to rest between training sessions so the body can replenish these stores.


For the average endurance athlete, a daily carbohydrate consumption of 500 to 600 g is required. This results in a maximum glycogen storage of 80 to 100 mmol per gram of wet weight.


A healthy 11 stone 4 lb (160 pound or 72.6 kilos) human male can store about 120-130 grams of glycogen in the liver, which is re-synthesized rapidly and available to all cells in the body, and about 10 grams per kilogram of muscle tissue which cannot be released to other tissues. If he measures 6'0" (1.83 m) and had 50 kilos of skeletal muscle, he could technically store 620 grams of glycogen or around 2400 calories worth. How quickly the stores run out depends upon the length and intensity of the physical exertion. One gram of fat contains nine calories whereas one gram of glycogen contains four calories.200 calories of glycogen is about 50 grams of carbohydrates and  the body can synthesize around 15-20 grams of glycogen per hour, and is doing so during physical activity, from any food remaining in the gut. A small meal should be consumed within two to three hours after any physical exertion no matter how intense and the body should be allowed to rest for 24 hours after intense sessions of training or exertion.


See also Calories in Food and Drinks


NOTE: Do not cleanse and detoxify while training for a marathon or other athletic event because the body’s protein, fat and carbohydrate requirements are too high during this time.  It is advisable to take timeout from training while on a cleansing regime and give the body a chance to restore and rejuvenate. See Cleanse and Detoxify.

The importance of fatty acids

Fatty acids are an important component needed for the protection and repair of joints and tendons. Many athletes suffer with ankle, elbow and knee problems and omega-3 fatty acids especially can help to relieve the pain and reduce inflammation. Omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory whilst omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. The western diet tends to have a ratio of far more omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids meaning it is more pro-inflammatory. To resolve this it is good to include more foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Hemps seeds are one food that has the correct ratio of (omega-6) 4:1 (omega-3).

Highest sources of omega-3 fatty acids in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Krill oil 36000 mg

  • Flaxseed oil 22813 mg

  • Chia seeds 17552 mg

  • Walnuts 9079 mg

  • Caviar (fish eggs) 6789 mg

  • Cloves (ground) 4279 mg

  • Oregano (dried) 4180 mg

  • Marjoram (dried) 3230 mg

  • Tarragon (dried) 2955 mg

  • Mackerel 2670 mg

  • Herring 2365 mg

  • Salmon (wild) 2018 mg

  • Lamb 1610 mg

  • Basil (dried) 1509 mg

  • Sardines 1480 mg

  • Anchovies 1478 mg

  • Soya beans 1433 mg

  • Trout 1068 mg

  • Pecans, sea bass 986 mg

  • Pine nuts 787 mg

  • Bell peppers (green) 770 mg

  • Oysters 740 mg

  • Radish seeds sprouted 722 mg

  • Purslane 400 mg

  • Basil (fresh leaves) 316 mg

  • Rabbit 220 mg

  • Kidney beans 194 mg

  • Wakame seaweed 188 mg

  • Alfalfa sprouts 175 mg

  • Brussel sprouts 173 mg

  • Rocket 170 mg

  • Cauliflower 167 mg

  • Spinach 138 mg

  • Broccoli 129 mg

  • Raspberries 126 mg

  • Lettuce 113 mg

  • Blueberries 94 mg

  • Summer squash 82 mg

  • Strawberries 65 mg

  • Milk 75 mg

  • Eggs 74 mg

  • Chinese cabbage (pak choy) 55 mg

Omega-7 is a newly discovered fatty acid, also known as palmitoleic acid, that has tremendous health benefits. It is very useful for those that participate in strenuous activities because it doubles the  glucose uptake by muscle cells, increasing their ability to burn sugar for energy and store it in quick-release, non-toxic glycogen. Pancreatic cells that produce insulin are damaged by high levels of glucose, eventually resulting in still higher sugar levels and worse tissue damage. Omega-7 protects the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas and enhances proliferation of pancreatic beta-cells which helps the body optimise blood sugar control with its own natural insulin.


Unfortunately, the natural sources of omega-7, such as macadamia nuts and sea buckthorn, also contain very high levels of palmitic acid which raises the risk of heart attack and stroke by increasing arterial stiffness, triggering abnormal platelet clumping and raising LDL cholesterol levels. Sea buckthorn and macadamia oils can contain between 11 to 27% omega-7 but they also contain around 9 to 40% palmitic acid, which can cancel out any benefits of the omega-7.


Anchovies contain far more of the healthy omega-7 fatty acids than macadamia nuts and sea buckthorn and far less palmitic acid so are a good choice but they also contain a lot of sodium so are not advised when high blood pressure is an issue. Soaking in cold water for 30 minutes then rinsing well and patting dry with kitchen paper can reduce the sodium level a little. There are some recipes on the Anchovies page.

Female athlete triad

Female athlete triad is a syndrome in which eating disorders (or low-energy availability), amenorrhoea/oligomenorrhoea and decreased bone mineral density (osteoporosis and osteopenia) are present. The triad is a condition seen in females participating in sports that emphasise leanness or low body weight. Symptoms of the triad may include cold hands and feet, dry skin, eating disorders, fatigue, hair loss, increased healing time from injuries, increased incidence of bone fracture, noticeable weight loss, irregular periods and sometimes the cessation of menstruation altogether. Affected females may also struggle with low self-esteem and depression.

Gold at the end of the rainbow

Nature has kindly colour-coded foods and it is important to include one of each colour everyday for everyone but especially for those in intense training as each contain different nutrients that the body needs to function well. If a rainbow of colours are consumed every day, there may well be a gold medal after the competition. The aroma of natural plant foods also indicates the nutritional and beneficial content of a plant. Always add plenty of herbs and spices to meals because they are rich in many vitamins and minerals and other beneficial and vital phytonutrients. See Nature's Colour Codes.

Natural ways to releive pain and inflammation and recover quickly

Many athletes and performers resort to conventional medications to provide relief from inflammation, pain and sports injuries. This can lead to severe side effects and cause serious nutrient deficiencies adding to the burden the athlete or performer is already placing on their body. Many foods have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and can help the body heal faster without the use of drugs. The additional benefit is that they also contain many other health giving nutrients which drugs do not.

Drugs tests have become very stringent in sports competitions therefore it is a wise approach to try to avoid them and go for natural alternatives that are often equally and, in some cases, more powerful and legal.

Muscle cramps can be caused by vitamin deficiency, especially the B complex or vitamin D or vitamin E, intense exercise, excess lactic acid, dehydration or low levels of minerals especially calcium, magnesium, potassium or sodium.

Medications which deplete or block absorption of vitamin A, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) or zinc can lead to diminished levels of a vital amino acid called taurine in the body and this can lead to muscle cramps.

Herbs with analgesic properties

  • Abuta is an Amazonian herb that is used as an analgesic to relieve joint pain.

  • Apple cider vinegar helps reduce joint pain by eliminating accumulated toxins from the joints and connective tissues and has an alkalising effect and is also rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. Mix one to three teaspoons of organic apple cider vinegar and a little honey in a cup of warm water. Drink this solution two or three times a day, preferably before meals. This treatment can be taken on a regular basis because, in addition to helping with joint pain, it is good for overall health and cleanses the liver.

  • Basil tea is good for joint pain as it is analgesic and anti-inflammatory.

  • Cinnamon and/or ginger powder, in tea, can be used to relieve chronic inflammatory pain and stiffness in joints. Cinnamon also helps to transport fat from the liver so that the body can use it for energy and burn fat more easily.

  • Fenugreek has powerful pain relieving properties. Swallow one teaspoon of finely ground fenugreek seeds followed by a glass of lukewarm water. Do this daily in the morning until the pain is relieved. Alternatively, soak one teaspoon of fenugreek seeds in water overnight and eat them the next morning.

  • Frankincense can alleviate the pain in joints rapidly with its anti inflammatory properties but may cause acid reflux. To combat this take with ginger. Ginger is also a natural anti-inflammatory, but it increases stomach acid secretion, so it will help with digestion of the frankincense. Daikon radish can also assist with absorption of frankincense and is high in calcium and other phytonutrients beneficial to the bones.

  • Ginger tea: Crush an inch of ginger root and add it to boiling water and leave to steep for 20 minutes. This homemade tea reduces inflammation in the same amount of time as it takes an aspirin to work.

  • Consuming 250 mg of ginger root four times a day is as effective as the drugs mefenamic acid and ibuprofen for relieving pain.

  • Ginseng has analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity similar to ibuprofen

  • Oat straw mends bones and relieves cramps.

  • Olive oil: contains a compound known as oleocanthal has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties similar to ibuprofen.

  • Pepperwort: Because it is rich in essential fatty acids, minerals, protein and vitamins pepperwort is known to improve sports performance and provides faster repair from sports injuries.

  • Scutellaria contains a compound known as baicalin that is as powerful as ibuprofen in reducing pain without the side effects.

  • St John's wort is a herb that is a powerful reliever of pain and inflammation and twice as effective as conventional anti-inflammatory drugs without the side effects. Read more.

  • Turmeric: For joint pain and inflammation mix one teaspoon of turmeric powder and a little honey in a glass of warm milk.

More herbs with analgesic properties

More natural foods with anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties

NOTE: Grapefruit can interact with certain medications. Check before consuming.

NOTE: Essential oils and rosemary are not suitable for pregnant or breast feeding women.

Spices with anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties

Herbs and spices can be consumed in various forms and many can be used externally as compresses and poultices. See how to make your own natural drug-free pain-relieving Natural remedies.

More tips to reduce inflammation and pain

  • Avoid acid forming foods from the nightshade family which can increase painful inflammation such as aubergine, bell peppers, tomatoes and white potatoes.

  • Avoid coffee and all other drinks containing caffeine

  • Consume six different colours of fruits and vegetables everyday to ensure that all necessary nutrients are being consumed. See Nature's Colour Codes.

  • Include probiotic foods in the diet such as natural live brine pickles, kimchi, kombucha, miso soup, tempeh and plain yoghurt with live cultures.

  • Purchase a  powerful 900 watt juicer and start drinking raw juices through out the day. The best natural foods to juice are: beetroot, carrot, cucumber, grapefruit, lemon, lettuce, pineapple, sour apple, sour cherry and spinach

  • Reduce meat intake and consume more oily fish and 1000 mg of krill oil daily.

  • Replace refined sugar with pure honey and sweet fruits.

  • Replace table salt with natural unrefined coarse sea salt, Himalayan pink salt crystals, kelp, seaweed or spices

For more information see Pain and Inflammation

Nutrients required for intense physical extertion

Beta-xanthins are the yellow pigments found in basidiomycota mushrooms, beetroot (golden), cucumber, prickly pear and Swiss chard that can help to maintain peak performance and high mental activity in athletes.

Choline is a vitamin related substance known to improve athletic performance and stamina and speed up recovery.

Natural sources of choline

Almonds, aloe vera, anchovies, apples, apricots, artichoke, aubergine, beans, beef, broccoli, buckwheat, cauliflower, collard greens, egg yolks, navy beans, oily fish, organ meats, nuts, peanuts, peas, poultry, quinoa, rabbit, rampion, shellfish, spinach, Swiss chard, venison and wheat germ.

Ornithine is an amino acid that forms three other amino acids, citrulline, glutamic acid and proline, that are responsible for supplying energy to every cell in the body. Ornithine helps to build muscles, promotes tissue repair, reduces body fat and fights off the signs of aging. This is done by the role it plays in stimulating growth hormone production. Growth hormones are needed to build and maintain muscle, especially during intense physical training. Ornithine also enhances fat metabolism, regulates salt levels in the body and supports healthy sexual function. It is also vital for removing toxic ammonia from the liver as well as excess nitrogen content in the body. Ornithine is a non-essential amino acid meaning that the body is able to produce the supply that is needed however, it may help to consume foods rich in this amino acid when in training.

Natural sources of ornithine

All individuals participating in extreme levels of physical exertion, especially long distance athletes in intense training, lose water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A and the B complex especially vitamin B1 (thiamine).

Vitamin A helps move iron from storage in the body and without adequate amounts of vitamin A the body cannot regulate iron properly leading to an iron deficiency.

Highest sources of vitamin A in micrograms per 100 grams

  • Calf's liver 70564 µg

  • Cayenne chilli powder, paprika 49254 µg

  • Sweet potato 19218  µg

  • Carrots 17033  µg

  • Pumpkin 15563  µg

  • Kale 14704  µg

  • Dried apricots 12669  µg

  • Butternut squash 11155  µg

  • Dried mint 10579  µg

  • Cos or romaine lettuce 8710  µg

  • Parsley 8424  µg

  • Cress 6917  µg

  • Eel 3787  µg

  • Watercress 3191  µg

  • Broccoli 2622  µg

  • Butter 2499  µg

  • Peas 2100  µg

  • Apricots 1926  µg

  • Tofu 1913  µg

  • Carrot juice 1912  µg

  • Goat's cheese 1745 µg

  • Milk 1621  µg

  • Passion fruit 1272  µg

  • Courgettes 1117  µg

  • Tomatoes 833  µg

  • Egg yolks 538  µg

NOTE:  µg is one microgram.

Vitamin B1 is required for the metabolism of carbohydrates and helps fuel the body by converting blood sugar into energy. It also keeps mucous membranes healthy and is essential for the nervous system, cardiovascular and muscular function and enhances circulation an d helps with blood formation. Beriberi i s the vitamin deficiency disease in which the body does not have enough vitamin B1 (thiamine). Beriberi literally means "I can't, I can't" in Singhalese, which reflects the crippling effect it has on those that are deficient. A deficiency can also lead to an accumulation of lactic acid which can cause muscle cramps for athletes competing in endurance events.

Highest sources of vitamin B1 in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Yeast extract 23.38 mg

  • Brewer’s yeast 11 mg

  • Rice bran 2.75 mg

  • Wheat germ 1.88 mg

  • Sesame seeds 1.21 mg

  • Sunflower seeds 1.48 mg

  • Coriander leaves 1.25 mg

  • Pine nuts 1.24 mg

  • Peanuts 0.44 mg

Vitamin B7: Deficiency of vitamin B7 may result in dry scaly skin, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting as well as tongue inflammation and high cholesterol. It may also lead to the appearance of severe rashes, fungal infections, brittle hair or even hair loss, depression and mood swings.

The nervous system can also be affected by a biotin deficiency and and this can lead to a lack of good muscle tone, lack of coordination and seizures. Muscle cramps related to physical exertion can also be a symptom, as the body will have an impaired system to effectively use sugar as fuel.

Egg whites should only be consumed three times a week as they contain a protein called avidin that binds to vitamin B7 leading to deficiency. The alternative is to consume extra foods rich in vitamin B7 the same day as consuming egg whites.

Highest sources of vitamin B7 in micrograms per 100 grams

  • Chicken livers 180 µg

  • Egg yolk 60 µg

  • Walnuts 39 µg

  • Oatmeal 35 µg

  • Peanuts 34 µg

  • Fish 20 µg

Vitamin C enhances the absorption of dietary chromium therefore foods rich in vitamin C should be consumed at the same time.

Highest sources of vitamin C in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Acerola cherries 1677.6 mg

  • Camu camu berries 532 mg

  • Coriander 566.7 mg

  • Rosehips 426 mg

  • Green chillies 242.5 mg

  • Guavas 228.3 mg

  • Yellow bell peppers 183.5 mg

  • Black currants 181 mg

  • Thyme 160.01 mg

  • Red chillies 143.7 mg

  • Drumstick pods 141 mg

  • Kale 130 mg

  • Jalapeno peppers 118.6 mg

  • Kiwi fruit 105.4 mg)

  • Sun dried tomatoes 102 mg

  • Cloves, saffron 81 mg

  • Cayenne red pepper 76 mg

  • Mustard greens 70 mg

  • Cress 69 mg

  • Persimmons fruit 66 mg

  • Chilli powder 64 mg

  • Kohlrabi 62 mg

  • Basil, rosemary 61 mg

  • Chives 58 mg

  • Oranges 53.2 mg

  • Lemons 53 mg

  • Kumquats 43.9 mg

  • Watercress 43 mg

  • Wasabi root 41.9 mg

  • Kidney bean sprouts 38.7 mg

  • Elderberries 36 mg

NOTE: Vitamin C supplements might raise blood sugar. In older women with diabetes, vitamin C in amounts greater than 300 mg per day increases the risk of death from heart disease therefore it is wiser to choose foods rich in vitamin C rather than supplements.

Vitamin E: Nickel and vitamin C share a common antagonist; vitamin E. This inhibiting effect of vitamin E is not related to the antioxidative properties of vitamin C or vice versa (both are antioxidants, so in that respect they are synergistic), but they are antagonists ratio wise to one another, and to other chemical members: For instance, vitamin C increases iron uptake which Vitamin E inhibits. Vitamin C lowers manganese and zinc, while vitamin E helps increase manganese and zinc absorption. As a result, a very high intake of vitamin C will require an equally high intake of vitamin E rich foods to maintain the same ratio.

Highest sources of vitamin E in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Wheat germ 149.4 mg

  • Hemp seeds 55 mg

  • Chilli powder 38.1 mg

  • Paprika 38 mg

  • Sunflower seeds 38.3 mg

  • Almonds 26.2 mg

  • Oregano 18.3 mg

  • Hazelnuts 15.3 mg

  • Pine nuts 9.3 mg

  • Peanuts 6.9mg

  • Spirulina 5 mg

  • Rice bran 4.9 mg

  • Dried apricots 4.3 mg

  • Olives 3.8 mg

  • Jalapeno peppers 3.6 mg

  • Anchovies 3.3 mg

  • Fish roe 1.9 mg

  • Bell peppers 1.6 mg

  • Asparagus 1.5 mg

  • Parsnips 1.5 mg

  • Kiwi fruit 1.5 mg

  • Black berries 1.2 mg

For the natural sources of other vitamins see the Nature Cures Organic Nutrients page.


Minerals required for intense physical exertion

All individuals participating in extreme levels of physical exertion, especially long distance athletes in intense training, lose electrolytes via sweat and need to replenish them especially magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and sodium.

Chromium is a trace mineral element necessary for the proper function of insulin, a hormone that regulates glucose metabolism in the cells. Whenever carbohydrates or proteins are consumed, the pancreas releases insulin, which stimulates the cells of the liver, muscles and adipose tissue to absorb glucose, the primary fuel source for all cells. Insulin also accelerates the processing of fats and proteins in cells. Therefore, if proper energy metabolism is to occur in the tissues, it is essential that the cells respond appropriately to insulin's signals. Chromium plays a vital role in insulin signalling. Insulin prompts the uptake of glucose from the bloodstream by attaching to receptors on the surfaces of the cells, thereby making the cells' membranes more permeable to glucose.

Highest sources of chromium in micrograms per 100 grams

  • Brewer's yeast 400 µg

  • Mussels 128 µg

  • Brazil nut 100 µg

  • Oyster 57 µg

  • Dates (dried) 29 µg

  • Pears 27 µg

  • Shrimp 26 µg

  • Wholemeal flour 21 µg

  • Tomatoes 20 µg

  • Mushrooms 17 µg

  • Broccoli 16 µg

  • Barley (wholegrain) 13 µg

  • Hazelnuts 12 µg

  • Maize (wholegrain) 9 µg

  • Egg yolk 6 µg

  • Herring 2 µg

NOTE: Make sure to read the label of Brewer's Yeast as some inferior products do not contain chromium. High-quality brewer's yeast powder or flakes contain as much as 60 µg of chromium per tablespoon (15 grams).

NOTE: It is advised not to consume more than 200 µg of chromium per day.

Copper is a micro-mineral that plays an important role in the conversion of iron into haemoglobin. This enzyme is found in red blood cells and it binds with oxygen in the lungs to get it in the blood. Copper also helps in the synthesis of proteins and enzymes and supports the functioning of the nervous system and stimulates the growth of red blood cells and is necessary for the correct functioning of brain cellsIt also helps with the maintenance and development of bones, tendons and connective tissues.

Iodine is a trace mineral element which regulates the rate of energy production and body weight and promotes proper growth. It improves mental alacrity. The chief store-house of iodine in the body is the thyroid gland. The essential thyroxin, which is secreted by this gland, is made by the circulating iodine. Thyroxin is a wonder chemical which controls the basic metabolism and oxygen consumption of tissues, in particular, in burning a surplus of fat. The thyroid gland uses iodine and the amino acid tyrosine to produce the hormones thyroxin and triiodothyronine. Both of these hormones function to regulate cellular metabolism. Metabolism refers to all of the processes that make energy available to cells. As such, these hormones regulate the conversion of glycogen (stored glucose) to glucose.

Many people believe that using iodised table salt can provide them with iodine they need but once the container is exposed to air, iodine content is nearly gone within four weeks after opening (even faster under conditions of high humidity) therefore it is best to consume the foods listed under Iodine to get enough of this vital mineral rather than table salt or switch to using Himalayan crystal salt as half a gram contains 250 µg of iodine.

Selenium is a necessary co-factor for a family of enzymes called iodothyronine deiodinase. These enzymes are responsible for activation and deactivation of thyroid hormones. As such, deficiency of selenium may either exacerbate iodine deficiency or even mimic some of the symptoms.

Iodine deficiency symptoms

Iodine deficiency can cause a thyroid imbalance, reduced fertility, goitre and enlargement of the thyroid glands, chronic tiredness, apathy, dry skin, inability to withstand the cold and weight increase. A deficiency of iron makes the thyroid dysfunction seen in iodine deficiency worse. Iodine supplements are not recommended instead consume natural foods rich in this element. Bromides are a common endocrine disruptor. Because bromide is also a halide, it competes for the same receptors that are used in the thyroid gland (among other places) to capture iodine. This will inhibit thyroid hormone production resulting in a low thyroid state. The high prevalence of sugar, refined carbohydrates or rancid vegetable oils prevent the absorption of iodine in the body.

Highest sources of iodine in micrograms per serving listed

  • Chlorella, dulse, spirulina algae and kelp (1 tablespoon or 5 g) 750 µg

  • Himalayan crystal salt (half a gram) 450 µg

  • Cranberries (4 oz or 114 g) 400 µg

  • Lobster (3.53 oz or 100 g) 100 µg

  • Cod (3 oz or 85 g) 99 µg

  • Plain yoghurt (8 oz or 227 g) 75 µg

  • Seafood, clams etc (3.53 oz or 100 g) 66 µg

  • Potato (one medium size) 60 µg

  • Milk (8oz or 227 g) 59 µg

  • Shrimp (3 oz or 85 g) 35 µg

  • Navy beans (4 oz or 114 g) 32 µg

  • Turkey (3 oz or 85 g) 34 µg

  • One medium sized egg 24 µg

  • Cheddar cheese (1 oz or 28 g) 23 µg

  • Tinned tuna (3 oz or 85 g) 17 µg

  • Gouda cheese (1.42 oz or 40 g) 14 µg

  • Prunes (five) 13 µg

  • Strawberries (8 oz or 227 g) 13 µg

  • Lima beans (4 oz or 114 g) 8 µg

  • Lean beef (3 oz or 85 g) 8 µg

  • Apple juice (8oz or 227 g) 7 µg

  • Peas (4 oz or 114 g) 3 µg

  • Green beans (4 oz or 114 g) 3 µg

  • Banana (one medium) 3 µg

NOTE:  one µg is one microgram.

Highest sources of iron in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Black pepper, marjoram, parsley, spinach, thyme 224 mg

  • Cocoa powder 46 mg

  • Spirulina 29 mg

  • Clams 28 mg

  • Bran 19 mg

  • Liver 18 mg

  • Squash and pumpkin seeds 15 mg

  • Caviar 12 mg

  • Sun dried tomatoes 9 mg

  • Dried apricot 6.3 mg

  • Wheat 6.3 mg

  • Black strap molasses 4.7 mg

  • Prunes 3.5 mg

  • Artichokes 3.4 mg

  • Prawns 3.1 mg

  • Lean beef 2.9 mg

  • Turkey 2.3mg

  • Raisins 1.9 mg

  • Chicken 1.3 mg

  • Tuna 1.3 mg

Highest sources of magnesium in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Rice bran 781 mg

  • Basil, coriander, dill and sage 694 mg

  • Pumpkin and squash seeds 535 mg

  • Raw cocoa 499 mg

  • Flaxseeds 392 mg

  • Brazil nuts 376 mg

  • Sesame seeds 353 mg

  • Sunflower seeds 346 mg

  • Wheat germ 313 mg

  • Black strap molasses 242 mg

  • Spirulina 189 mg

  • Kale 88 mg

  • Globe artichoke 60 mg

  • Okra 57 mg

  • Rocket 47 mg

  • Plantain 37 mg

  • Butternut squash 34 mg

  • Potatoes with skin 30 mg

  • Passion fruit 29 mg

  • Savoy cabbage 28 mg

  • Peas 24 mg

  • Raspberries 22 mg

  • Guava 22 mg

  • Blackberries 20 mg

  • Kiwi fruit 17 mg

Highest sources of potassium in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Dried basil, chervil, coriander, dill, parsley 4240 mg

  • Sun dried tomatoes 3427 mg

  • Raw cocoa 2509 mg

  • Whey powder 2289 mg

  • Paprika and chilli powder 2280 mg

  • Yeast extract 2100 mg

  • Rice bran 1485 mg

  • Black strap molasses 1464 mg

  • Dried soya beans 1364 mg

  • Spirulina 1363 mg

  • Pistachio nuts 1007 mg

  • Squash and pumpkin seeds 919 mg

  • Sunflower seeds 850 mg

  • Almonds 705 mg

  • Dates 696 mg

  • Whelks 694 mg

  • Dried figs 680 mg

  • Clams 628 mg

  • Watermelon seeds 648 mg

  • Chestnuts 592 mg

  • Cashews 565 mg

  • Walnuts 441mg

  • Brussel sprouts (juiced raw) 389 mg

  • Coconut water 250 mg

  • Orange juice 200 mg

NOTE: Lithium has an effect on the potassium and sodium balance in the body and supplements of lithium should never be taken by anyone in intense training.

Highest sources of phosphorous in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Baking powder 6869 mg

  • Whey powder 932 mg

  • Pumpkin seeds 1233 mg

  • Poppy seeds 849 mg

  • Mustard seeds 828 mg

  • Parmesan cheese 807 mg

  • Brazil nuts 725 mg

  • Raw cocoa powder 734 mg

  • Soya beans 637 mg

  • Beef liver 497 mg

  • Sardines 490 mg

  • Caviar 356 mg

  • Tempeh 266 mg

  • Su dried tomatoes 356 mg

  • Brown rice 360 mg

  • Buckwehat 319 mg

  • Dried shiitake mushrooms 294 mg

  • Portobello mushrooms 108 mg

  • Whit mushrooms 105 mg

  • Water cress 60 mg

Highest sources of selenium in micrograms pr 100 grams

  • Brazil nuts 1917 µg

  • Oysters 154 µg

  • Lamb's liver 116 µg

  • Tuna 108 µg

  • Whelks and octopus 89.6 µg

  • Wheat germ 79.2 µg

  • Sunflower seeds 79 µg

  • Amaranth 70.7 µg

  • Caviar (fish roe) 65.5 µg

  • Egg yolk 56 µg

  • Chia seeds 55.2 µg

  • Kippers 52.6 µg

  • Pork 51.6 µg

  • Halibut 46.8 µg

  • Oat bran 45.2 µg

  • Lean beef 44.8 µg

  • Crab 44.4 µg

  • Salmon 41.4 µg

  • Rabbit (wild) 38.5 µg

  • Chicken and turkey 37.8 µg

  • Turbot 36.5 µg

  • Sesame seeds 34.4 µg

  • Kamut 30 µg

  • Couscous 27.5 µg

  • Mushrooms (Crimini) 26 µg

  • Cashew nuts 19.9 µg

  • Calf's liver 19.3 µg

  • Rabbit 15.2 µg

  • Rye (whole grain) 13.9 µg

  • Venison 10.3 µg

  • Spirulina 7.2 µg

  • Asparagus 6.1 µg

  • Spinach 5.5 µg

NOTE: One µg is one microgram.

Highest sources of sodium in milligrams per 100 grams

  • Table salt 38758 mg

  • Baking soda 27360 mg

  • Stock cubes 24000 mg

  • Soya sauce 5586 mg

  • Chilli powder 4000 mg

  • Miso 3728 mg

  • Yeast extract 2962 mg

  • Capers 2769 mg

  • Processed meats (salami etc) 2260 mg

  • Processed cheese 1798 mg

  • Caviar 1500 mg

  • Crab 1072 mg

  • Spirulina 1048 mg

  • Whey 1079 mg

  • Margarine 943 mg

  • Olives 735 mg

  • Salted peanuts 667 mg

For the natural sources of other minerals see the Nature Cures Inorganic Nutrients page.

Diet for intense physical exercise

A post-workout meal does not need to be large. Generally, 150 to 250 calories of quality food will suffice. Avoid meals with a high fat content, as fat slows digestion and delays the delivery of much needed nutrients to the muscles. Foods that should be reduced or avoided in the low-fat diet of an athlete or dancer are:

  • Biscuits.

  • Butter and margarine and other fatty spreads.

  • Cakes.

  • Chocolate and other fatty confectionary.

  • Cream and creamy dressings and sauces.

  • Crisps, pork scratchings and other similar processed fried savoury snacks.

  • Desserts and puddings.

  • Fatty meats such as duck, goose, lamb and pork and skin of poultry.

  • Fried food.

  • Ice cream.

  • Pies and other pastries.

  • Processed fatty meats such as bacon, burgers and sausages.

Snacks for intense physical excersise

Because an individual in training and on a low-fat diet may be at risk of low levels certain vitamins and minerals, the following six low-fat and nutritious snacks are recommended which will provide energy from carbohydrates and plenty of vitamins and minerals as well as some protein.

  • Wholemeal bread toasted with sardines, mackerel, mushrooms or tomatoes and basil.

  • Fresh or dried fruits such as apples, apricots, bananas, berries, dates, dried figs, grapes and/or raisins.

  • Tortilla wraps with low-fat fillings of cottage cheese, skinless chicken, tuna or egg and a colourful salad.

  • Brown rice with beans, watercress, spring onions, mushrooms, oregano and curry spices.

  • Whole grain fresh pasta with fish, seafood or mushrooms, tinned tomatoes, spinach, spirulina and dill.

  • Low-fat yoghurt with fruit, honey, whole grain cereals and Brewer's yeast.

Salad dressing for intense physical excersise

A low-fat and nutritious salad dressing for an athlete on a low-fat diet plan can be made from a choice of the following:

  • Two tablespoons of vinegar: apple cider vinegar is the most healthy but balsamic or flavoured vinegars such as raspberry can also be used.

  • The juice of half a freshly squeezed lemon or lime.

  • Mustard or mustard powder.

  • Herbs such as basil, oregano or marjoram

  • Chopped garlic.

  • Grated ginger.

  • Chopped onions.

  • Salt and pepper and other spices of choice.

  • Honey.

  • A very small amount of olive oil or low-fat yoghurt or fromage frais can also be added.

Performance enhancing foods

The following foods are highly nutritious and ideal for everyone but especially beneficial for athletes in training and others participating in intense physical activities.


This important meal of the day should contain nutrients that can provide a slow release of energy and the protein needed for recovery from training and exercise.

Go to work on an egg

Eggs whites are high in cholesterol, which the arteries needs for repair, the brain requires for structure and the body needs to make vitamin D. They also have the highest quality source of protein available. Egg yolks also contain almost every essential vitamin and many other important nutrients.

Significant nutrients in eggs: Betaine, carotenoids, choline, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin, lycopene, omega-3 fatty acids and phytosterols.

Vitamins in eggs: A, B1, B2, B3, B5,  B6, B7, B9, B12, D, E and K.

Minerals in eggs: calcium, chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, lithium, magnesium, molybdenum, phosphorus, selenium, sodium and zinc.

One large egg contains about 78 calories and one medium sized egg contains around 66 calories which equates to about 131 calories per 100 grams which means they are a useful in the diets of those trying to lose weight.

NOTE: As mentioned above, there are high levels of a protein called avidin in raw egg whites which bind to vitamin B7 (biotin) which may cause a deficiency of this vitamin if consumed over a few months. When cooked, avidin is partially denatured and binding to biotin is reduced. However one study showed that 30-40% of the avidin activity was still present in the white after frying or boiling so consumption of cooked egg whites should be limited to about three times a week whereas egg yolks, that contain most of the nutrients and no avidin, should be consumed more often. The other alternative is to eat extra foods rich in vitamin B7 the same day as eating egg whites. See vitamin B7.

Slow energy release providers

Both soluble fibre and insoluble fibre foods are vital in the diet and are good choices for breakfast. This aids digestion and feeds the beneficial bacteria in the intestines and should be consumed at least once a day. Whole grains such as barley, brown or wild rice, oats, millet, rye, teff and wheat or a combination of more than one are very beneficial. Barley, rye and wheat contain gluten and may cause irritation to the intestines and when they cannot be tolerated the following 'pseudo-grains' make good alternatives: amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa. Oats, millet and teff are more easily digested. See Food Allergies.

Other good additions for breakfast are the following:

Nature cures daily sports tonic

This is a highly nutritious green 'smoothie' that will not only help enhance sports performance but also aid in the fast repair of tissues after training. It is very rich in antioxidants, essential fatty acids, fibre, carotenoids, minerals and vitamins including all of the B complex and the eight amino acids required to build the body's muscles and cells. Banana skin is a rich source of fibre, lutein, magnesium, potassium, tryptophan and vitamins B6 and B12. This tonic is useful for everyone, especially those recovering from any illness, injury or surgery or suffering from any nutrient deficiencies and should be consumed everyday.

  • One whole banana (skin included)

  • One whole cooked beetroot (chopped)

  • One tablespoon of cooked tomatoes

  • Quarter teaspoon of moringa powder

  • Half a teaspoon of maca powder

  • Half a teaspoon of turmeric powder

  • One teaspoon of baobab powder

  • One tablespoon of a greens powder mix of barley grass, chlorella, spirulina and wheat grass

  • One tablespoon of ground hemp seeds

  • Small handful of ground pumpkin seeds

  • Half a teaspoon of turmeric

  • Half a freshly squeezed lemon and grated peel

  • Sprinkle of ground peppercorns


Mix all the ingredients in a powerful blender with some bottled mineral or coconut water and drink immediately.

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