Getting fit and getting a tan – how they are related.

The human body is an amazingly adaptive organism. It has been responding and adapting to stresses in our environment for thousands of years, and our extraordinary anatomy and physiology is a testament to this. But not only do we adapt over thousands of years, every one of us makes small but significant adaptations over our lifetime. Take for example someone who goes blind and then develops more powerful hearing, or how we become immune to diseases after we have been exposed to them, and when we expose ourselves to sunlight, we increase our melotonin and ‘get a tan’.

It is this same incredible adaptive response that enables us to improve our fitness. In fact the process of getting fit is actually an adaptation just like getting a tan, your body is improving its ability to respond to the stress of exercise, just like skin builds its defence against the sun.

When we go for a training run, we stress our body’s ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to our muscles, and our muscle’s ability to quickly turn this fuel into energy they can use (ATP).

Our body doesn’t like being stressed, so it undergoes adaptations* so that it can better cope with training
 sessions in the future. It is essentially saying ‘wow, that was hard, I don’t want to be that stressed out again, I’m going to make some changes so that if I experience stress like that, I will be better able to handle it’.

So now that we know that the development of fitness is an adaptation as a result of physical stress, we can start to think about how to maximise the adaptations we get as a result of the stress we put our body under when we are training. Essentially, a well put together training programme is actually a manipulation of stress factors such as the frequency, intensity and type of exercise that we do in order to encourage our body to adapt in a specific way.

So where does nutrition come into things?

It helps maximise the physical stress and therefore fitness gains, click HERE for the juice.

*These adaptations occur across many levels in our body

  • Muscular level – our muscle types can change so they are better suited to the type of exercise being done as well as that we get more of these, and bigger, muscle cells.
  • Nervous system – we get better nerve supply to our muscles.
  • Vascular system – we get increased capillarisation (the tiny blood vessels which deliver blood to our cells) of our muscles.
  • Cellular level – This is where thousands of small changes happen which make a big difference. For example, depending on the type of training we do, we may get more and bigger mitochondria (the engine of the cell), and more intracellular enzymes to help burn the fuel.