By Barbara Robb, MA
You need energy to exercise and energy comes from food. Make sure you’ve eaten adequately before any fitness activity and eat to refuel afterwards, says Sue Travis, RD, PhD, of the division of nutritional sciences at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.
Fitness Food: The Right Diet for Exercise
The amount of food a person needs will vary with age, sex, weight, and activity level. The rate at which you burn calories depends not only on the type of exercise you do, but also on how vigorously you do it.
Travis emphasizes that it’s important to divide your calories between carbohydrates, protein, and fat:
- Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates — sugars and starches — are broken down by the body into glucose, which muscles use for energy. Excess carbs are stored in the liver and tissues as glycogen and released as needed. It’s glycogen that provides the energy for high-intensity exercise and prolonged endurance. Some good sources of carbohydrates are whole grain breads and cereals, fruit, vegetables, pasta, and rice.
- Protein. Protein should be part of each of your major meals because it will help slow absorption of carbohydrates. Fish, eggs, chicken, meat, and beans are excellent sources of protein, and 3 ounces per meal is enough.
- Fat. You need some fat in your diet, too, says Travis. Low-fat dairy products, like 1 percent milk, and lean cuts of meat will give you the fat your body needs.
Try to have a combination of items from all three of these food groups at each of your major meals, says Travis. For a healthy breakfast, have a high-fiber cereal (either oatmeal or another whole-grain cereal), a low-fat dairy product, and fruit or a glass of juice. The easiest lunch might be a sandwich made with lean meat, poultry, or fish on whole-grain bread, with raw veggies and fruit served on the side. Protein and energy bars can be useful, but don’t use them as a meal replacement, warns Travis. Look for bars with at least 10 grams of protein and some carbohydrates, rather than products with a high protein content and hardly any carbohydrates.
Fitness Food: Timing Meals and Snacks
If you exercise in the morning and don’t have something to eat first, you can use up all of your stored energy. If you’d rather not have breakfast before you exercise, try eating a small piece of fruit.
If you’re planning a strenuous workout, eat a meal high in carbohydrates at least three to four hours beforehand. Choose foods that are easily digested. Travis suggests that you experiment with different foods to see what gives you the most energy.
Fitness Food: Factor in Fluids
It’s particularly important to drink fluids before, during, and after exercising. If you exercise strenuously, try to drink fluids even if you’re not thirsty.
Water is a good choice for most activities. If you exercise continuously for 90 minutes or more, you might benefit from a sports drink that contains electrolytes and carbohydrates. But sports drinks are designed for people who are doing endurance activities for prolonged periods. They probably aren’t necessary for the average person.
Caffeine is dehydrating. Travis suggests that you drink an equal volume of water if you drink coffee or another caffeinated beverage.
The bottom line on fueling for exercise? If you drink plenty of fluids and eat regular meals that include carbohydrates, protein, and fat, you should have all the energy you need for your workout plan.
By Sally Squires
Published Sept 18, 2013
If you’re trying to lose more weight, consider exercising for just 30 minutes a day, instead of trying to do a lot more.
Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it?
Well, it’s not. Danish researchers report today that overweight men who worked out just 30 minutes a day lost a third more weight over three months than did their counterparts who exercised for 60 minutes or more daily.
How can that be?
It turns out that briefer bouts of exercise may be more motivating than long workouts, according to the University of Copenhagen scientists, who report their findings in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. ‘The ‘lightweight’ group of exercisers appear to get more energy and be more motivated in relation to pursuing a healthy lifestyle,” says Professor Bente Stallknecht from the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen.
In the study of 60 overweight, but healthy men, participants who exercised 30 minutes daily lost eight pounds over 13 weeks, compared with six pounds lost by those who worked out an hour or more daily.
Here’s how one participant explained it:
“At first, I thought it [60 minutes of exercise] was really great and it gave me tons of energy, but by the end, I felt tired because I thought it was too much – too much exercise.”
Compare that to this comment from a participant, who exercised 30 minutes per day.“It’s kind of trite to say that you get more energy, but you do. You feel less fatigued and . . . it kind of feels like there’s more fuel in the tank.”
More fuel in the tank may also translate to exercising more consistently. That adds up to a healthy habit that could be easier to maintain–just the thing to help with shedding pounds and keeping them off for good.
If you’re struggling with weight loss, then you already know it’s the little things that add up — the “little bit more” at the dinner buffet, the “little bit too tight” feeling of your clothes. But what if you also knew about the little things you could do every day to increase your weight- loss success? Here they are.
10 Steps to Speed Weight Loss
1. Switch up your snacks. “First of all, watch mindless snacking,” says Emily Banes, RD, clinical dietitian at the Houston Northwest Medical Center in Houston, Texas. “[Those calories] really add up.” Instead of grazing on the baked goodies in the break room, have a plan for healthy snacks that combines a little bit of fat, protein, and crunch, such as apple slices smeared with peanut butter. If you are counting calories, doing the math may help: a pound is the equivalent of 3,500 calories, so if you can cut 100 calories out of your day, you will lose a pound in just over a month.
2. Cut out high-calorie condiments and sugars. “Instead of getting a coffee with sugar, try Splenda,” says Banes. Likewise, try mustard on your burger or sandwich instead of mayonnaise, and order your salad dressing on the side so that you can control the amount you eat.
3. Hoof it. “Exercise is key,” says Banes. People who manage at least 150 minutes of activity a week are more successful with weight loss. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or park a bit farther from your destination so you have to walk. This will add extra exercise — and burn more calories.
4. Anticipate temptation. If you know you can’t resist freshly baked brownies, don’t keep a mix in your pantry. Also, if you are going somewhere with friends and family and know you’ll have a hard time controlling yourself, make a decision before you get there about what you will eat — and stick to it.
5. Try the veggie-loaded plate method. Banes recommends using your plate to guide your food selection and portion sizes. One half of the plate should be vegetables. The other side can be split between protein and starchy carbohydrates. If you decide to get a second plate, says Banes, it had better be all vegetables. People who eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day are more successful with weight loss.
6. Skip the fast food. A study of 1,713 adults who have been successful with weight loss demonstrated that people who eat at fast-food restaurants less than twice a week have greater success with their weight loss. “If you do eat fast foods, don’t supersize it,” says Banes, and try to opt for a salad, small portions, or “get baked, not fried.”
7. Limit the calories you drink. While most people understand sugary sodas add calories, Banes sees a misconception when it comes to sweet tea and juices. Sweetened tea is no less calorie-dense than soda, and you’d be better off eating the fruit than drinking the juice, advises Banes.
8. Be accountable. Whether you have a diet buddy you check in with, a support group, or a food diary, keeping track of your daily food choices takes only a few minutes, but can double your weight-loss success.
9. Order smaller portions. Data suggests that people who order smaller portions or share a plate at restaurants are more successful with weight loss. Banes recommends ordering the lunch portion, an appetizer, or a children’s meal — or put up to half your meal into a doggy bag before you begin eating.
10. Acknowledge your success. People who believe they can succeed with weight loss actually do lose weight more successfully. How do you gain this confidence? Take a moment to pat yourself on the back when you make healthy choices and achieve your short-term goals.
These small changes, all of which can easily be made, will quickly add up to more pounds lost over time.
By Madeline Vann, MPH
Hello there, and welcome to Nutrition Intuition. If I wasn’t a nutrition consultant and registered dietitian, I’d be visiting with one because most diet and nutrition messages can be confusing! I am in a unique position: as a counselor, I know the questions consumers are asking; as a consultant, I communicate with food companies and media; and as a mom of three, I have to figure out how to get healthy food on the table while wearing so many hats.
As I launch this new column, I want you to know I’m eager to hear what you have to say about eating well and staying healthy. I’d like to invite you to have a conversation — send me comments, ask me questions, and follow me on Twitter. I look forward to our dialogue starting with my first topic: The pitfalls of weighing yourself.
I would understand if you told me that your husband, mother, father, child, or friend contributed to your bad mood. These are all people who could have said or done something that rubbed you the wrong way.
But, for many people, stepping on a simple machine could ruin a perfectly good morning. Here’s a sample scenario:
Let’s say you woke up, your stomach felt kind of flat, you knew you had a well-balanced dinner the night before, you couldn’t wait to put on that new skirt, and you were feeling svelte. Then, before hopping into the shower, you decided to step onto the bathroom scale and…you gained a pound?! How could that be? The sun shining outside your window felt more like storm clouds and rain. Suddenly you felt bloated and uncomfortable and you wished you didn’t have to leave the house.
This may sound a little far-fetched, but for those of us who weigh ourselves everyday (and for some — several times a day), this is a very real depiction of how an inanimate object could play such a powerful role in our lives. One of the most popular questions I’m asked is, “When is the best time to weigh myself,” and my response is, “It depends.”
According to the National Weight Control Registry, an organization of over 10,000 members who have lost weight and kept it off, 75 percent of registrants reported that they weigh themselves at least once a week, and it is this consistency that contributes to their success. For these waist watchers, and in similar studies, it has been shown that a weekly weight check helps keep dieters on track, and in these cases, the scale could be a useful tool.
In other situations, as with people who suffer from disordered eating, the scale could represent a negative force. Here, the number on the scale is closely linked to self worth and feelings of depression and low self esteem could result from seeing a number that is even 1/4-pound more than expected. This, by the way, could be seen in patients that are under, over, or even at a perfect weight. The emotional response is not really about the number on the scale, but instead, it’s about what that number represents.
As a weight loss counselor for over three decades, I never weigh a patient until after I have assessed their relationship with the scale. For me, the scale is only one measure of success; decreasing numbers need to be coupled with a reduction in portion sizes, a balanced, varied diet, and an overall sense of empowerment and well-being.
So when is the best time to weigh in? Once I know that a patient is able to weigh responsibly, I suggest stepping on the scale on Fridays and Mondays: If they’re down by a pound or so on Friday and they plan on a major weekend splurge, weighing in on Monday could help them stay on track. If, on the other hand, if a Friday weight is higher than anticipated, then the weekend may bring leaner choices so that Monday’s reading is pride-worthy.
by Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RND, CND
published April 18, 2013