Veterans’ Health Week: Nutrition.

Dear Veterans,

We thank you for your all you have done for our country. It’s difficult to fully understand all you have done, all you have seen, been through and sacrificed for us to be where we are now in a country where people believe in mateship and peace.

Active Physiotherapy thanks you particularly during this Veterans’ Health Week, reminding us all of the importance of nutrition in our health and wellbeing.

Is nutrition only about diet?

As much as we physios want to talk about exercise, we have to admit – health is equally a matter of diet. By diet, I do not mean 2 weeks of starvation, I mean all intake of food and fluid, quality, quantity, nutrition and yes, the need to have restrictions.

It would be so easy to categorise food, put – “this is healthy and this is unhealthy” labels on products. Life is never black or white. There are products that come with labels that seem to be written in a “foreign language”. I really, really recommend you talk to a Registered Dietician who can teach you how to read and understand food labelling.

Food to our body is like fuel to a car, right? Imagine getting high quality fuel and the best oil for your car and then parking it in the garage and never using it, or using it only for short drives once a week. What a waste, you say. A car has to be run every day, and long runs are better for the battery and engine than short ones.

Nutrition in only half of the success!

Food gives you nutrition- a building material, but it is up to you what you build with it. You can build so very many things. Just get the fuel and go for a ride.

Nutritional LEGO – where vitamins and minerals go, and what to do with it.

Proteins build your muscles – but to build your strength you need to challenge your body. Walking to the letter box is not challenging. Going for longer than usual walk, walking faster or up the hill can be challenging.

Resistance training and weight training will make your muscles stronger but it has to be heavier. Muscles adapt to loads. If a person lifts a handbag (even a heavy handbag) several times a day, muscles will cope with that weight without effort and will not strengthen above necessary. Maybe lifting a handbag is all you need – you will say. Fair enough, not everyone wants to become a power lifter. BUT! With age we lose strength – it’s a natural part of life -and one day your handbag may be too heavy, therefore we need some surplus strength. It’s like insurance for future.

Cardio training and HIIT(High Intensity Interval training) strengthen the most important muscle of your body – your heart. To strengthen your heart, you need to make it a bit faster. If you have a heart condition you may have to consult your GP and be monitored while exercising by Doctor or Physiotherapist. You should not be unwell or extremely breathless whilst cardio training. If you have no heart or other conditions keep your heart rate below your maximum heart rate.

Max HR= 220 – you age. For example, I am 31. My Max HR is 220-31= 189. However, I know that I feel my heart is racing when I go above 170 but it improves after regular cardio sessions.

Other Muscles foods:

Calcium – muscle contraction and energy metabolism

Biotin – helps turn carbs and protein into energy. Slows down going grey 🙂

Iron – helps deliver oxygen to muscles, increases energy levels

Vitamin C – antioxidant, helps to absorb Iron

And more (Omega3, Copper, Magnesium, Vit B12, Vit D)

Carbohydrates– ditch them or not? Definitely not! Carbohydrates are your brain fuel. Your body cannot function without them and they are even more important for aging brains. If you are worried about your waist line you should get familiar with refined and unrefined carbohydrates. Fruits and vegetables are the healthiest source of carbs, and less fried, less cooked and organic products are better.

Exercise and learning new things helps your memory, brain function and thinking. Research says that crosswords are not enough. You should really learn new stuff like: playing the instrument, learn how to crochet, learn a new language, learn how to dance. It appears learning is not only for youngsters.

Exercise like Zumba or Senior Zumba, Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates, Salsa, Aerobic – do wonders for you coordination and balance (that is mostly managed by your brain). Any other exercise including walking, swimming, running and resistance training help release happy hormones – good for mental health.

Other brain foods:

Vitamin B (B1, B9, B12) – are responsible for memory, nerves health and neurotransmission (sending signals in between nerve cells)

Magnesium – responsible for long term memory

Zinc – alteration in Zinc found in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease (but more research needs to be done).

Selenium – maintain mood, improves immune system

Calcium and Magnesium – bone builder. Everyone knows these two help bone strength. If you care about your bones, you also want to know what exercise is proven to make your bones unbreakable. Once my teacher told me that if I was tapping my forehead with a pen for some time I would grow a horn. Sounds like a joke but there is some truth in it. Impact stimulates bone strengthening. It is proven that strength (weight or resistance) training strengthen not only muscles but also bones. The best recommendation for osteoporosis is strength training at the gym.

Physios aren’t experts in nutrition, we recommend you speak to a Dietician if you need help there. We are experts in exercise. Nutrition and exercise combined in the best possible balance will get you the optimal outcome in mental health, muscle strength and bone strength.

Thanks again to all our Veterans for all you have done for us, we look forward to continuing to give back to you by helping with your health.