Joanne Smith and Kylie JamesWe all know that eating well and working out are essential to good health — and this couldn’t be more true for people with SCI. Numerous studies show that including certain nutrients in your diet and exercising regularly can help you along your journey to improve your strength and endurance, reduce pain and depression, and prevent the development of conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Also, healthy diet and exercise can keep you looking good and feeling great, as well as enhance your independence and overall quality of life!

What are the physical activity guidelines for adults with SCI? Researchers recommend that healthy adults with SCI should participate in at least 20 minutes of moderate-vigorous aerobic activity two times per week, as well as strength training exercises two times per week. These are the first evidence-based guidelines to be developed specifically to support people with SCI in improving their physical fitness.

Eating well and working out are essential to good health — and this couldn’t be more true for people with spinal cord injury. Here are some tips for what you should eat to fuel your body for aerobic exercise and strength-training:

• Aerobic exercise: The preferred energy source for any cardiovascular exercise is carbohydrates. To help prevent fatigue and replenish energy stores eat approximately 30 grams of complex carbohydrates one hour before exercising. If working out intensely, eat 50-70 grams of carbohydrates 30-60 minutes after working out. Healthy complex carbohydrates sources include oatmeal, whole grain bread, low-sugar energy bars and bran muffins.

• Strength-training: When doing strength training exercises, your body has greater protein requirements in order to help build and repair muscle. Eat 20 to 30 grams of whey protein 30-60 minutes after working out. A whey protein smoothie is a fast, easy and delicious way to do this — one scoop of whey protein equals approximately 25 grams of protein.

Good fats and water are also critical to optimize both types of exercise.

salmonGood Fats:
• increase delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscles

• increase aerobic metabolism

• reduce inflammation in tissues/muscles, therefore helping to speed recovery time after weight training

Good fat sources include fish, avocados, nuts and seeds. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements are another great source.

Water:
• delivers required nutrients, oxygen and hormones to cells

• helps regulate body temperature

• reduces risk of dehydration Drink at least six to eight cups of water or herbal teas a day.

Joanne Smith and Kylie James are co-authors of the book, Eat Well, Live Well with SCI and Other Neurological Conditions. For more information on nutrition for neurological injuries go to www.eatwelllivewellwithsci.com.

Below is a weekly physical activity schedule (thanks to SCI Action Canada) and some recommended foods to help you optimize your workouts. Click here for printable chart.

SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
ACTIVITY Swimming
6 PM
20 min
off Resistance band
7 AM
10-15 min
off Resistance band
7 AM
10-15 min
off Resistance band
7 AM
10-15 min
BREAK 7 AM 6AM 7:30 AM 7 AM
Whole grain toast with almond butter 1 c. Greek yogurt with favourite berries 2 poached eggs and pear Homemade oatmeal with favourite berries
SNACK 10 AM 8 AM 10:30 AM 10 AM
Apple Whey protein powder smoothie 8-10 almonds Boiled egg
LUNCH 12 PM 1:30 PM 12 PM
Veggie soup and whole grain crackers Bean/lentil salad Whole grain tuna wrap with lettuce & tomato Whey protein powder smoothie & fruit salad
SNACK 5 PM 3 PM 6 PM 3 PM
Low sugar Energy Bar with 500 ml water
*drink another 500 ml immediately after exercise
Flax flat bread & hummus Bran muffin with 500 ml water *drink another
500 ml immediately after exercise
10 baby carrots & hummus
DINNER 7:30 PM 7 PM 8:30 PM 6 PM
Grilled salmon with steamed broccoli Grilled chicken with Greek salad Quinoa salad Whole grain pasta loaded with veggies