Recently, I was asked to bring skinfold calipers to a social gathering. Ann (not her real name), a young mother who had succeeeded in losing 50 pounds by diet and exercise, wanted me to measure her body fat. She wanted to lose 10 more pounds, but her mother and other relatives had been making comments she was tooo thin.
The calipers provided unbiased data and Ann was actually shocked to learn she was a very lean 16% body fat. Because her physique had always been on the heavier side, she still saw herself as being bigger than she was. She ascribed to the belief Ill always be too fat, and never be too thin. Not the case. She now was thin-enough and had no need to be thinner-yet.
Body fat measurements can be a helpful tool to give dieters the data they need so they know when to stop dieting. Ann could now believe her weight was indeed low and she could focus more on building muscle than on losing fat.
I encouraged Ann to allow her body a 5 pound weight range, to account for muscular growth. I offered to do repeated body fat measurements, to help her through the after-the-diet stage when the scale goes up as muscles get rebuilt.
If you, too, have lost a lot of weight, you might want to seek a sport dietitian who can measure your body fat, to give you data regarding a good weight for your body. The referral network at www.SCANdpg.org can help you find a local sports dietitian.
Nancy, Im trying to lose about 20 pounds and I want to know how to burn the most fat. Ive heard I should 1) exercise on an empty stomach, because that results in more fat burning, and 2) do low intensity fat burning exercise rather than push my self very hard. What do you suggest?
Answer: Burning fat differs from losing body fat. Burning fat occurs with low level activity. Two perfect examples of fat burning exercise are sitting and sleepingbut I doubt if those are the most conducive way to lose body fat!
In order to lose undesired body fat, you have to create a calorie deficit. Any type of exercise can contribute towards this deficit. If, by the end of the day, you have burned more calories than you have eaten, this calorie deficit will contribute to loss of body fat.
I vote against exercising on an empty stomach. I suggest you fuel yourself with 100 to 300 calories of a pre-exercise snack. This fuel will boost your blood sugar, energize your workout, and help you enjoy your exercise program. The snack will help you have energy to exercise longer and harder, and youll end up burning more calories than if you were to work out on empty. The pre-exercise snack will also curb your appetite so that, after the workout, you will be less likely to reward yourself with 400 calories of treats that you rationalize you deserve to eat.
The E in exercise should stanf for Enjoyment. You should be exercising because it helps you feel good, feel good about yourself, relieve stress, enhance fitness and improve your health. Please dont use exercise as a form of punishment for having excess body fat.
As I rested in bed early this morning listening to the radio, I can across a radio program that was clearly an advertorial. The speaker was taking about how you can have more energy if you buy a zillion different types of his brand of vitamins, amino acids, anti-oxidants, and other such nutritional supplements. Not once did the speaker mention that food is the source of energy. Food contains calories, and calories are the fuel you need to function.
Vitamins and supplements are just the spark plugs in your bodys engine. No amount of supplements will boost your energy if you skip breakfast, skimp on lunch, and plow through the day with inadequate gas in your tank. Yes, you do need vitamins to help convert the food into energy. But I rarely see debilitating vitamin deficencies in active people who are eating 2,000 to 3,000+ calories a day, including many fortified foods like energy bars and breakfast cereals that can be vitamin pills in themselves.
NUTRITION & EXERCISE: An intensive workshop is your chance to learn more about nutrition and exercise.
Exercise physiologist William Evans PhD and I will be offering a 1.5 day program that is designed to help serious athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, exercise physiologists, sports nutritionists, and sports medicine professionals find answers to their questions about--
-eating for health, enhanced performance and longevity
I love peanut butterbut I rarely eat it, lamented my client, a weight conscious runner who deemed peanut butter as being as fattening. She, like many of my clients, was complaining about her efforts to stay away from peanut butter. When I told her I consider peanut butter to be one of the best sports foods around, a great big smile appeared on her face.
Indeed, peanut butter can beneficially fit into your sports diet and is a good way to reduce your risk of developing heart disease. In fact, the more often you eat peanut butter (and nuts), the lower your risk of heart disease. (Hu, J Am College Nutr 20(1):5, 2001) Enjoy peanut butter (instead of butter) on toast, and PB & banana for a "decadent" snack in place of ice cream. Trade that burger (saturated fat) for a peanut butter sandwich!
Even the commercial peanut butters (like Jif or Skippy) are health-promting. They have a very small amount of bad (hydrogenated/saturated) fat. To minimize your intake of even this small amount of unhealthful fat, you can buy all-natural peanut butter. Don't like the way the oil in this type of peanut butter separates to the top of the jar? Simply store the jar upside down. That way, the oil rises to what becomes the bottom of the jar when you turn it over to open it. And if you eat peanut butter daily, you won't have to refrigerate it, thereby making the all-natural peanut butter easier to spread.
Despite popular fear, peanut butter eaters are not fatter than abstainers. Sure, if you mindlessly overeat spoonfuls of peanut butter at 10:00 pm, it can be fattening (as can be any food). But incorporating a few tablespoons into your daily meals is an investment in both a happy tummy and good health.
Nancy, in your Sports Nutrition Guidebook, you mention that athletes can eat within 5 to 30 minutes of exercise and get results. It has always been my understanding that it takes quite a bit of time before food can be digested. I have been taught that food doesn't leave the stomach for about 2 hours. I also was under the impression that physical activity, such as running, drew blood away from the stomach thusly slowing down the digestion. Thanks for helping me better understand how to eat pre-exercise.
Yes, believe it or not, 100 to 200 calories of carbs eaten even 5 minutes pre-exercise can enhance your performance (assuming you can tolerate the light snack). If you were to eat a heavy high protein/high fat meal such as a cheese omelet or cheeseburger, the protein and fat would linger in the stomach and possibly talk back to you. But carbs are readily available, as witnessed when a person with diabetes has low blood sugar and is given some orange juice or cola. That sugar gets into the system within three minutes. The same goes for athletes.
As for blood flow, if you are exercising at a pace you can maintain for more than 30 minutes, you can both digest the food and use it to enhance performance. The trick is to practice pre-exercise fueling, so you learn what foods, and how much of them, will contribute to better performance for your body.
Hey Nancy, Im running my first marathon tomorrow. What should I be eating? asked the young man at the running store where I was giving a nutrition clinic.
Questions like that always stun me. This runner hadnt thought much about nutrition, to say nothing about the importance of training his intestinal tract, as well as the heart, lungs and muscles. He was missing an essential part of a training program! If a marathoner cannot train his intestinal track to tolerate fuel in some form before and during a marathon, he or she will be more likely to hit the wall..
As I discuss thoroughly in my Food Guide for Marathoners; Tips for Everyday Champions, runners need to fuel well the day before with a diet baed on carbs (pasta, rice, fruits, breads, vegetables). The day of the marathon, the runner wants to enjoy a tried-and-true breakfast (so as to avoid losing time in the porta-potty line), and then consume about 200 to 300 calories per hour after the first 60 to 90 minutes. The strategy shold be to practice this during training, so the day before the marathon, you have no need to worry about what to eat to enjoy going the distance.
I just returned from the American Dietetic Associations Food and Nutrition Conference and Exposition. While standing near Egglands Best booth, I overheard the egg representative explaining to another dietitian People who eat just the egg whites are missing out on the most nutritious part of the egg: the yolk. Egg yolks are important sources of life-sustaining nutrients; they contain the vitamins and minerals!
I agree with him. Too many athletes are throwing the baby out with the bath water when then toss the yolk and eat only the white. I invite you to rethink your egg white omelet.
--True, egg whites are fat free protein, but a little bit of fat is an important part of each sports meal and is used to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. The 5 grams of fat in the yolk will help absorb the vitamins in the berries you eat as a part of your breakfast. Of those 5 grams of fat, only 1.5 grams are saturated (bad-for-you) fat. Most athletes can consume 20 to 30 grams of saturated fat a day and still stay within recommended dietary guidelines.
--True, the egg yolk is a rich source of cholesterol, but the impact of cholesterol on heart health is now considered to be very low, less than 1% of causes of heart disease. The impact of saturated fat, however, is the real culprit. Hence, you do want to limit your intake of the bacon, butter and cheese that commonly accompany the eggs.
Eating eggs for breakfast can keep you feeling fuller for longer; this helps with hunger-management and weight-management. The key to egg consumption is to nix the bacon, butter and cheese but keep the nutrient-rich yolks. Heres to poached eggs on whole grain toast!
More often than not, the avid bicyclists I counsel express concern about the power to weight ratio. As one cyclist, Hal, explained to me. Nancy, biking is all about the power to weight ratio. Ill be more powerful on my bike if Im lighter. I really want to lose about 20 pounds so Ill be able to bike faster. I asked this lean man what his wife thought about this idea. He responded, She thinks Im crazy. I silently agreed with her; Hal didnt have 20 pounds of excess fat to lose.
I reviewed Hals eating patterns and made some suggestions to help him ride faster by being better fueled. In his efforts to lose weight, he currently was actively restricting his breakfast and lunch. No wonder he lagged on energy during his late-afternoon bike rides. He thought he was slow because he was weighed too much. I think he was slow because he was underfueled.
Ill see him for a follow-up consultation in a month. If hes like other cyclists, hell happily report, I havent lost any weight, but by eating better, Im much faster and Ive been setting PRs.
What happens to vitamins? Do we need to replenish them every day because they get flushed out of our bodies and down the toilet?
And in the course of a bout of exercise, which of them can contribute to a decline in performance? That is, are they removed from the point of use?
Heres what this athlete needs to know about vitamins.
First off, vitamins are like spark plugs in a car. They get recycled and re-used.
As humans, we can store vitamins in our body--in the liver. (Thats why liver is so nutritious, for people who enjoy eating chicken livers or beef liver). A healthy person has about a six-week supply of Vitamin C, and a several months supply of vitamin A.
If you fail to eat the RDA for a certain vitamin on one day, you will not become deficient overnight.
The goal is to eat well over the course of the week, month, and year, so you can consume the vitamins you need from food. One day of poor eating will not hurt your performance.
A decline in performance is more likely due to lack of fuel (from carbohydrates) or lack of water--but not lack of vitamins in an athlete who eats adequately (as opposed to restricts food intake). The exception is the common deficiency of iron, which can lead to iron deficiency anemia.
By eating colorful vegetables, a variety of fruits, whole grains, lean meats and low fat dairy, you can consume both the vitamins you need for spark lugs and the carbs you need for fuel to excel.
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!
Time and again, I counsel bike racers who complain about their bodies. “If only I could lose about 5 to 10 pounds, I would be such a better bike racer,” explained Jim, a lean 32 year old man who wanted to be even leaner. “As you know, with bike racing, the weight to power ratio is very important.”
Jim obsessed about every calorie he consumed, and felt frustrated by his seeming inability to not only lose weight but also to get faster. For all the training he was doing, he was not gaining any benefits. Little did he recognize he was already very lean, and the cost of trying to become even leaner yet was undereating and training with underfuel muscles. No wonder he wasn’t improving!
I recommended that Jim taking a week’s vacation from dieting and practice eating adequately—enough to fully fuel his muscles so he could train better. I encouraged him to observe the benefits of having better fueled muscles: more energy, better workouts, greater endurance.
When he returned for his follow-up visit, he said ”I didn’t lose any weight, but I sure felt better on my bike. I was able to ride faster and to keep up with the others, even on the hills.” He learned the best fueled athlete tends to be better than the perfectly-thin-but-underfueled athlete.
If you, too, believe thinner-at-any-price is better than lean-enough-and-well-fueled, think again… There is no proof the thinnest athlete is the best athlete.
Too many people who exercise purposefully do not eat before they exercise. They think they should exercise on empty, to prevent intestinal distress. While this may be OK for a short bout of exercise, when they build up to an hour of more of exercise, they start to run out of energy. Thye experience needless fatigue.
Research indicates consuming 100 to 300 calories (depending on your body size and how hard you will be exercising) within the hour before you exercise can improve performance -- to say nothing of enjoyment of the the session. Hence, if you have been avoiding food out of fear of "rapid transit", you should start to train your intestinal track to lean how to digest food while you exercise. This is important if you plan to workout for more than an hour. Start with a saltine, apretsel, a bite of banana, and work up to two saltines, two pretzels, two bites of banana ... With time, your intestinal track will adjust to digesting food while you exercise, and you'll have better, stronger, more enjoyable workouts.
Training your intestinal track as well as your heart, lungs and muscles is important if you plan to do workouts that last longer than one hour!