Food As Fuel – Eating A Balanced Diet Before and After Your Workouts

How many of you see food as an enemy? Something to be controlled? Food and health go hand in hand, and with all the choices out there, its no wonder we are confused.

First let me qualify this loudly: I am not a nutritionist. Today’s topic will cover basic stuff. With that said, confusion about food is usually the most common complaint I get, and I would be doing a disservice if we did not touch on it.

Whether you are a recreational weekend warrior, an athlete, or a self-proclaimed couch potato you have probably thought about food. Am I helping or hurting my progress by putting this in my mouth? Common concern. Talking with a registered dietitian, a nutritionist, or your health care provider can help answer this question more clearly.

Let’s break down food. Food is simply fuel. We need it to function. From our food choices we derive the nutrients and minerals our bodies need to function well. We classify food into two basic categories: Macro and Micro nutrients. Macronutrients are Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats. Micronutrients are smaller, like vitamins and minerals.

When we exercise for a period of time we need to replenish our bodies. Its smart to eat a small meal about 30 minutes before your workout and another one within 45 minutes of finishing a workout. Try to get a mix of carbs and protein and look for foods which allow you to do activity after without causing you digestive problems. Following your workout is a great time to add simpler carbs in allowing your muscles to suck up glucose and re-fuel for your next workout.

Here are some ideas for pre and post workout snacks from www.fitsugar.com

Five pre-workout snack ideas:
1. Half a chicken, turkey or lean roast beef sandwich on whole-wheat bread
2. Low-fat yogurt with a sliced banana
3. Low-fat string cheese and 6 whole-grain crackers
4. Hard-boiled eggs, yolks removed and replaced with hummus. (Check out my own recipe here!)
5. Skim milk blended with frozen fruit to make a smoothie

Five post-workout replenishing meal ideas:
1. One or two poached eggs on whole-wheat toast
2. Bean burrito: a whole-wheat tortilla filled with black beans, salsa and reduced-fat cheese
3. Stir-fried chicken and vegetables (try pepper, zucchini and carrot) over brown rice
4. Whole-wheat pasta tossed with chicken, broccoli and eggplant
5. Whole-grain cereal or oatmeal, with milk and fruit (such as a sliced banana)

Losing Weight The Healthy Way

Here is how healthy weight loss works. Extra weight is just fuel you’ve put into your tank and didn’t use up. You consumed extra calories without burning them.

Calories(kcal) in MUST EQUAL calories out to MAINTAIN your current weight. This means if you want to lose weight the healthy way you must figure out how to create a deficit. In other words calories in MUST BE LESS THAN calories out to LOSE weight.

We can cut our food intake or increase our daily calorie needs (movement or exercise). To lose weight the healthy way create a plan which combines the two. By limiting food calories and adding more exercise to your daily routine it is easier to create enough of a calorie deficit without compromising your energy or health.

For example: Cut 500kcals from your daily intake (about two 20-oz bottles of soda) and increase your exercise by 300kcals per day (30-60 min of activity depending). This creates an 800kcals deficit per day. If you could do this 5 days a week you would expend an extra 4,000kcals per week. To lose a pound of fat you must burn 3,500kcals. So under this plan you should be losing at least 1 pound a week.

Some words of caution.
Food is not the enemy – load up on nutrient dense foods (foods with low calories and lots of vitamins + nutritionist). Healthy weight loss is approximently 1-2 pounds per week. It took time to put the weight on it’ll take time to take it off. Do not cut your calories too low. Less is not always more. See a nutritionist for help. Not eating enough will put your body in conserve mode. This backfires on weight loss because instead of letting go of calories your body will slow functions down to conserve calories. You won’t be getting the workouts because you are likely to be more tired and possibly more sick. This is not where you want your healthy weight loss program to be.

How to Eat Healthy While On Vacation

Eating healthy may be a challenge at home during your regular routine. So how, you ask, am I suppose to eat healthy while on vacation out of my routines? Its not as hard as you think.

First, be prepared. Plan for your needs. Be the one to bring the raw veggie plate with a healthy dip. Or bring a fresh fruit desert.

Second, eat small portions. I for one love summer BBQs and potlucks but instead of taking heaping spoonfuls of all my favorites I just take a small bite sized portion. I can always have more if I want it but keeping it off my plate usually keeps it out of my mouth.

Third, go whole food. Look for items that are as close to their natural state as possible. The less processing foods have the better for you!

Finally, follow the 80/20 rule. If 80% of your choices are healthy options the other 20 can be less than ideal. The trick is to keep this rule in action consistently over time. So don’t panic if one day is off just remember to make it up the next day.

Healthy eating starts with choices you make every meal. Don’t get discouraged and keep coming back to your goals and habits. If you can make small changes that last a lifetime you are on track to reach your goals. Just remember fitness and health are daily things and keep moving forward!