I just dont have time to run or go to the gym the way Id like to. Im in a demanding semester at grad school and I barely have time to breathe. If I take a semester off from the gym and just try to walk as much as I can as a part of my day, will I get fat? I am afraid to stop working out four times a week
I could hear the fear and frustration in my clients voice. I assured her she could exercise less and not gain weight. In fact, I generally separate exercise from weight management, particularly with women. Exercise has little impact on a womans weight. Exercise, in fact, often increases a womans appetite so she wants to eat more after a workout.
If you are fearful of taking time off from exercise, whether for grad school, injuries, or other reasons that limit your time to exercise, fear not. You may lose fitness, but you need not gain fatness. The trick is to eat mindfully, according to hunger -- not according to boredom. The mindless eating that accompanies boredom and loneliness contributes to fat gain.
If you listen to your body and eat when you are hungry, then stop when you are content, you can maintain weight, even without exercise. (Just look at the number of people in a hospital who lose weight even without exercise; they create a calorie deficit that is essential to lose undesired body fat.) I told my client to eat when she was hungry, stop when she was content, and trust that her body could regulate the proper intake without micro-management of diet and exercise. She just needed to trust this process. Easier said than done!
If you are doing double workouts (within 6 hours) or competing in a tournament situation, you need to rapidly refuel to get ready for the next bout of exercise. A survey of 263 endurance athletes indicates they understand the importance of recovery after a hard workout, but they dont know what to eat. They believe protein is the key to recovery. Wrong. Carbohydrate should really be the fundamental source of recovery fuel. Or better yet, a foundation of carbs with a little protein, such as chocolate milk. A survey of exhausted cyclists who were given a choice of recovery drinks indicated they all enjoyedand tolerated wellthe chocolate and vanilla milks, more so than water, sports drink or watery chocolate drink. Chocolate milk is familiar, readily availableand tastes good! If you are not lactose-intolerant, give it a try.
How long do your muscles need to recover? A study with elite soccer players suggests they needed five days for sprinting ability to return to pre-game level. That's four days longer than most athletes allow... Do not underestimate the power of rest in a recovery program.
Rremember: food is fuel. As an athlete, you shouldn't just eat,you should be sure to eat right!