Fit in my 40s: protein boosts fitness, but who wants to eat a kilo of chicken a day? | Zoe Williams

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Powders are the way forward – you can even bake with them

I refuse to address the conundrum of what diet to deploy on your excess tum. It just seems so wrong, after all we’ve collectively been through, to embark on anything resembling self-denial. Instead, let’s focus on nutrition for exercise, as whatever’s happened, your routine has probably changed. Maybe you’ve done a lot more running than you usually would, and a lot less gym work, which is to say, none. Or maybe you’ve done more exercise full stop, to keep yourself sane. Or perhaps you’ve done absolutely nothing, in which case, for that same sanity, go and read something else and we can talk again in autumn.

James Stark, 31, founded Starks Fitness, which – like a surprising number of personal training programmes – also has a line in protein powders. I mention this only because any diet intended to maximise your exercise will start with protein: forget exclusions and carb-curfews and most of all forget calories in, calories out. We all have different needs, he says. “I want to maintain lean mass; you might want to build muscle.” (I don’t, not really.) “You need micronutrients and you might need fast-acting sugars, depending on what kind of exercise you’re doing. But every single one of us,” Stark emphasises, “needs a base-protein level; as a percentage of total intake, you should aim for 35-40%.” This will necessarily change the way you eat: “If you try to get all of that from animal products,” Stark says, “it won’t be digested as easily as a combination of animal, fish and plant.”

Related: Fit in my 40s: can I learn to love livestreamed classes? | Zoe Williams

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