Exercise vs Food - which is better for you?

It’s an age-old debate: which is better for you – food or exercise? You’ll probably hear a thousand different opinions, but sometimes you just need to know whether to reach for a sandwich or your runners. GF is here to help (you’re totally welcome).

To get a better night’s sleep... It’s a draw

Some food encourages sleep, and some deters it, says dietitian Claudia Jahjah (hillsnutrition.com.au). “Avoid caffeinated drinks and foods, as well as eating a large dinner before bedtime,” says Claudia. Instead, look for foods that contain tryptophan. “One study found that foods rich in tryptophan can help you feel calm, relaxed and sleepy.” Try foods like milk, red meat, fish, eggs and chickpeas. Combine this with exercise and you’ve got a great night’s sleep. “Exercise will make you physically tired, which will help you sleep better,” says Evangelene Bird, personal trainer at Fitness First. “It will also clear your mind and reduce anxiety.”

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To boost your energy... Food

“Food plays an important role in providing energy for the body to function physically and mentally,” says Claudia. “It can also alter your metabolism to burn fuels – that is, foods – effectively.” Eat three main meals each day, choose low-GI carbohydrates and lean meats, and always stay properly hydrated for optimal energy. “By timing your meals right and choosing the best type of food, you can boost your energy levels throughout the day.”

To lift your mood... Exercise
Exercise can have a big impact on your mood. Evangelene suggests doing some high-energy exercise if you’re flat or tired. “The endorphins that your body releases will change your mood and you’ll feel uplifted.” If you want to clear your mind without the high-energy impact, try Pilates or yoga – both will release negative energy.

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To improve your immunity... It’s a draw

When it comes to fighting off nasty bugs, food and exercise both play vital roles. “Foods rich in vitamin C, like citrus fruits and orange and red vegetables, can increase the production of infection-fighting white cells and reduce illness time,” says Claudia. Evangelene believes moderate, regular exercise leads to a healthier lifestyle, so you’re less likely to get run-down.

To manage PMS... Food

According to Claudia, there are four ways you can use food to manage PMS. First, eat smaller meals and snack regularly; reduce your intake of salty and caffeinated foods (to feel less bloated); boost your dairy intake (calcium can reduce PMS symptoms by half), and increase sources of magnesium (try some mixed nuts).

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To alleviate stress... Exercise

Nothing beats exercise to take your mind off things and beat stress. “When you exercise, you tend to block everything else out and focus solely on the activity you’re doing. Even putting music on while you exercise is a great way to turn off your thoughts and deal with the stress,” says Evangelene.

Words - Sarah Sheridan