That's because there's more to a carrot or a sweet potato than just vitamin A. Within the body, vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients work together with literally thousands of other compounds, such as color components in fruits and vegetables, special starches and fibers in whole grains, and unique fats in seeds, nuts, and dairy. And it's the whole package that promotes good health and peak athletic performance.
Of course, protein bars and calcium-fortified juices seem like a convenient way to take in all of the 50-plus nutrients every runner needs daily. But getting them -- and more -- from real food is easy. Follow these six rules every day, and your body will get everything it needs for better health and better running.
Achieving a healthier weight isn't always about losing pounds; some people would benefit from gaining some. Often, that isn't as simple as it might sound, but with the right plan it can be done.
Many things affect our health, but research has shown that people whose body weight is within a certain range tend to live the longest and enjoy the best health. Those who are underweight are below this range, which means their health could be at risk.
What's wrong with being underweight?
A number of underweight people are fit and well; they simply have a slender constitution. However, for many people being underweight may mean their bones aren't as strong as they could be and a woman's periods may be irregular, which can affect fertility. It also means they have fewer 'reserves' if they fall ill.
If recent and unintentional weight loss has made you underweight, and you always feel tired, see your doctor in case you have an underlying health problem. If you consciously restrict how much you eat, and/or feel anxious about the thought of gaining weight, you may have an eating disorder.
Why do some people stay so slender?
Healthy people who stay slender do so because they're in 'energy balance'; in other words, they (usually quite unconsciously) eat the right amount of food to meet their calorie needs. Research shows they don't have a very high metabolic rate and they don't magically 'waste' calories either. It's a combination of their inherited body shape, their natural level of appetite, what they eat and their activity levels (for example, they may rarely sit down).
The best ways to gain weight
The media may concentrate on those who need to shed a few pounds, but for those who need to put on weight the task can be just as daunting.
Take it slowly
Gaining weight and keeping it on can be as tricky as losing it and keeping it off. Rather than having the occasional extra snack, you need to regularly take in more calories than you burn. Combining this with toning exercises helps too.
Set yourself realistic target weights and aim to gain gradually - say, around 1kg (2.2lb) a month. To do that you'll need to add an extra 300 to 350 calories or so to your daily intake. It's best to do this in a healthy way as part of a balanced diet, rather than simply eating more fried foods or chocolate!
Keep a food diary for a couple of weeks to learn more about your eating habits.
Rather than struggling to eat a few really big meals, plan three regular meals plus two or three snacks.
If you tend to eat erratically, write down a regular meal plan and keep to it.
Make meals a little larger or more calorific. For example, have an extra slice of toast at breakfast; drink grape juice rather than orange juice; make coffee with milk; serve an extra spoon of rice; be more generous with healthier unsaturated oils, salad dressing and spreads; always have a dessert.
Have snacks to hand so you never go short.
Although exercise helps to burn calories, it's important to include some form of activity into your plan to help keep your bones strong and your muscles toned.
Ensure regular physical activity for 30 minutes (or two 15-minutes sessions), five days a week - walking is ideal.
Combine this with some resistance training using gym equipment or home weights, if possible. First seek safe advice from a qualified fitness adviser.
Take care not to be too active. If you're someone who's always on their feet, make time to relax each day.
Keep up your increased food intake to fuel your exercise - with enough to spare to allow you to gain weight gradually.
Maintaining your healthier weight
Once you've reached your target weight, to maintain it you need to keep up the lifestyle changes you've made.