“If I eat breakfast, I feel hungrier all day” complained a working mom who came to me looking for help with losing 10 pounds. She was a breakfast skipper. She believed skipping breakfast would save her some calories and help her shed a few pounds. Plus, when she ate breakfast, she reported she felt hungrier the rest of the day.
The reason she felt hungrier when she ate breakfast was because she did not eat enough breakfast. She’d have just an English muffin with a dab of jelly. That was only 200 calories. Her body wanted at least 500 calories – English muffin plus a tablespoon of peanut butter on each half of the English muffin plus a banana plus a ½ cup of milk in her coffee!
If skipping breakfast was truly an effective way to lose weight, she would not have needed my guidance; she would have successfully lost weight on her own. But that was not the case. She described her eating as being “so good during the day, but so bad at night.” That is, the minute she got home from work, she’d devour cheese and crackers and then a big dinner and then graze some more.
She thought her nighttime eating was the problem. It was actually the symptom and the result of her having dieted “too hard” during the day. I suggested she experiment to determine if eating MORE breakfast would curb her evening appetite. Although she shuddered at the thought of eating more food, she completed the experiment and discovered that the heartier breakfast did stay with her and enabled her to curb her evening over-eating.
If you believe that breakfast makes you hungrier, think again and trust that eating a heartier breakfast is indeed the best way to start a day of dieting. Give it a try?
If you endure an intense workout and want to optimize your recovery, pay attention to what you eat beforeyou exercise. According to research presented at this year’s annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, consuming protein before lifting weights may enhance recovery better than consuming a protein recovery drink afterwards. That’s because your body digests the pre-exercise protein into amino acids (yes, your body can digest food during exercise) and puts those amino acids into action repairing damaged muscles.
Both your pre-exercise diet as well as your recovery diet should include some protein -- but with a foundation of carbs. That’s because protein builds and heals muscles, but carbs are needed to refuel the muscles. Don’t consume just protein, as in a protein shake or protein bar. Rather, enjoy a protein-carb combination: yogurt + fruit, bagel + peanut butter, cereal + milk, chocolate milk, apple + cheese, pasta + meatballs. There are lots of yummy food combinations that do an excellent job of both repairing and refueling your body. You need not buy engineered protein to enhance recovery. Save your money and spend it instead on real foods that offer far more than health value, if not good taste.
If you like the convenience of protein shakes, at least add carbs to them. That is, blend in some banana and frozen berries, or enjoy some graham crackers along side the shake. You’ll recover better if you consume three times more carbs than protein. That’s contrary to what many well-intentioned athletes consume when they snack on pre-exercise protein bars, drink post-exercise protein shakes, and then dine on three chicken breasts for dinner. Excess protein does not turn into a bigger bicep by breakfast! Exercise builds muscle, and your muscles need carbs for fuel to do the muscle-building exercise.
For help finding the right balance for your diet, consult with a sports dietitian. The referral network at www.SCANdpg.org can help you find someone local.
I talk with too many athletes who are confused about how to best recover after they exercise. Many are obsessed with rapid refueling immediately after they stop exercising. Here are a few tips to clarify the confusion.
First of all, rapid refueling is most important for athletes who will be doing a second bout of intense, depleting exercise within six hours of the first bout. You want to rapidly refuel if you are, let’s say, a triathlete who does double workouts or a soccer player in a tournament. Your muscles are most receptive to refueling within the first hour after a hard workout, so the sooner you refuel, the sooner you'll be ready to roll again.
If you have a full 24 hours to recover before your next training session, or if you are a fitness exerciser who has done an easy workout and have lower recovery needs, you need not get obsessed with refueling immediately after your workout. Over the course of the next 24 hours, your muscles will be able to replenish their depleted glycogen stores as long as you provide them with adequate carbohydrates. Never the less, having something to eat within the hour after you exercise is a wise habit to develop.
If you are a dieting athlete who wants to shed some undesired body fat, I encourage you to refuel soon after your workout because this food can help curb your appetite. This post-exercise snack can ward off the Cookie Monster that might visit in 45 minutes. As you know, a few unplanned post-exercise cookies can quickly wipe out in 3 minutes the calories burned in 30 minutes of exercise!
Keep in mind that recovery calories “count.” That is, I’ve counseled many frustrated dieters who complain they are not losing weight despite their hard workouts. They snarf down 300 or so “recovery calories” and then go home to enjoy a big dinner. To avoid over-indulging in recovery-calories, plan to back your training into a meal. For example, eat dinner soon after your 5:00 p.m. workout. Or, it that is not possible, eat part of your dinner right after the workout. For example, have a recovery bagel at 6:00 pm on your way home from the gym instead of potato with dinner at 7:30 pm.
If you’ve always wanted to attend a workshop that presents the latest sports nutrition research and offers tips to help you fuel better, perform better and invest in a long and healthy life, here’s your chance!
Exercise physiologist and protein researcher Dr. William Evans PhD and I will be teaching a two-day workshop on Nutrition & Exercise: From Science to Practice:
Sept 24-25 – Nashville, at Lipscomb University
Oct 1-2 - Durham, NC at the Duke Center for Living
The workshop is geared towards health professionals but serious athletes are also welcome.
CEUS are available for ADA, ACSM, NATA, NSCA, CHES, AFAA, ACE and NASM.
Athletes of all sports and abilities commonly ask me what they should eat before, during and after a competitive event:
When should I eat the pregame meal: 2, 3 or 4 hours beforehand?
How many gels should I take during a marathon?
What’s best to eat for recovery after a soccer game?
The same athletes who worry about event-day fueling often neglect their day to day training diet. Hence, the real question should be: “What should I eat before, during and after I train?” After all, you can only compete at your best if you can train at your best.
As you prepare for each workout, remember you should be training your intestinal tract as well as your heart, lungs and muscles. To get the most out of each workout, you need to practice your pre-, during- and post-event fueling as well as your sports skills. Then, come day of the competition, you know exactly what, when and how much to eat so you can compete with optimal energy and without fear of bonking nor intestinal distress.
For help with personalized advice on optimizing your training diet, find a local sports dietitian by using the referral network at www.SCANdpg.org. (SCAN is the Sports and Cardiovascular Nutrition Dietary Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association.) Alternatively, many active people have found my Sports Nutrition Guidebook to be very helpful.
Fuel wisely and enjoy training faster, stronger and longer.
Most weight reduction diets are targeted towards women. What are the keys to weight loss success for men? Does the same diet advice apply to men as for women? That question was addressed by research presented at the American College of Sports Medicine's Annual Meeting in June.
In a study with 65 overweight or obese men (average age, 36 years), the keys to weight loss success in men were:
• choosing smaller portions of foods
• eating fewer high fat foods (particularly snacks and take away foods including meat pies, hamburgers, chocolate, chips, potato crisps and ice cream).
* cutting back on sugary soft drinks
• consuming less alcohol.
By making these small changes, about one-third of the men lost more than 5% of their body weight within 6 months. (That means, a man who weighed 200 pounds lost about 10 pounds, or about a half a pound a week.) They did not deny or deprive themselves of their favorite foods, they just ate less of them.
Although the dieters knocked off some “junk food’, they did not increase their intake of fruits and vegetables. This contrasts to dieting women who tend to munch on lots of salads and eat fruits for low-calorie snacks. This means you can lose weight even if you don’t want to eat like a rabbit! You can still eat your “man food” – just less of it!
Losing weight does not depend on eating more fruits and veggies. Yet, the goal of weight loss should be to invest in health and not just reach a lower number on the scale. That’s where food choices that include fruits and veggies offer the winning edge.