Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

Best food choices before exercising and how to eat right if working from home

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A common question I often hear from clients is if they should eat before exercising, and if so, what should they choose?  Before becoming a trainer, I would avoid eating before exercising in the morning. I assumed I’d burn more fat and as a result have a higher net caloric expenditure.  After taking a nutrition certification course, however, I learned that eating the right foods before exercising was beneficial.  A new study published this week in Science Daily looked at the benefits of consuming protein before you work out.  Protein has a higher thermic effect than carbohydrate or fat. Thermic effect is the amount of energy that it takes to digest, store and utilize the food we eat. One of the reasons that high protein diets have gained popularity is that more energy (calories) is required to process protein, as opposed to carbohydrate and fat.  Think about eating a small meal of mostly protein before you exercise.

High protein diets, like all diets, have limited long term success for many reasons. They’re not considered healthy if not paired with the correct amount of carbohydrate and fat. Also, they are not sustainable if they don’t match your food preferences. Even if high protein dieters are excited about their weight loss, research suggests that muscle loss is a problem, particularly at a time when people should be considering maintaining or building muscle mass through consistent exercise. Check out this article to learn more.

So how and what should you eat before you exercise?

  • Ideally, you should wait at least an hour after eating before vigorous exercise, if time allows. If not, keep portions small.
  • The amount of food should not be more than 6-10 ounces.
  • The make-up of the food should be largely protein if you want the increased caloric burn.
  •  The food should be easily digestible- even if nut butters are a favorite, if they’re too rich for your system, you may not be comfortable with moderate to vigorous exercise shortly afterwards
  •  Good choices are eggs or egg whites, nonfat or low-fat yogurt, hummus, nut butters, turkey, cheese, milk (any kind, soy, almond or rice milk all count) any kind of nuts, seeds, oatmeal with milk, fruit or berries

Here are some great breakfast ideas that combine protein with carbohydrate to provide you with plenty of lasting energy .

If you work from home, how do you avoid overeating? Is your office or computer close to the kitchen? Are the leftovers from that great restaurant calling your name? Are your mealtimes not routinized? Do you eat too frequently, because you don’t sit down for meals? Here are some ideas to help you regulate your eating with proper meals and the right snacks.

  • Set a meal routine- try to eat within 1 hour of rising, leave no more than 4 hours between meals without a healthy, low-calorie snack in between
  • Prepare for the week by stocking your refrigerator with good choices such as fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins
  • Cook on the weekend for the week ahead- make a hearty soup or stew; chop or roast some vegetables for salads or healthy snacks
  • Stay hydrated!  Thirst can be mistaken for hunger- if you are craving something tastier than water,  sip herbal teas that have plenty of flavor
  • Be honest with yourself, don’t keep treats like cookies and ice cream in the house if you can’t resist them (girl scout cookie season is thankfully over!)
  • Get up and move- maybe a mid-day exercise class or brisk walk helps you maintain your energy level and will distract you from eating while stoking your metabolism

For more tips, check out this article: 

Think of food as fuel. How will you keep your furnace stoked?

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