Last week, I talked about some fitness and exercise trends and research. This week features portion size, carb, protein and fat needs and timing of eating before and after exercise. The world of health puts out so much confounding information. Here are some clarifying tips about when, what and how to eat in relation to your exercise program, and beyond.
Your nutritional hierarchy of importance:
- How much are you eating?
Eat until satisfied, instead of stuffed. Take at least 20 minutes to eat, so your brain can register satiety.
- How you are eating?
Eat slowly and mindfully, without distraction, chewing well, as some digestive enzymes are contained in your saliva.
- Why are you eating?
Are you hungry, bored, stressed, following peer pressure, social cues, triggered by hyper-rewarding foods or are you actually experiencing a caloric and energy deficit?
- What are you eating?
Shoot for minimally processed proteins, veggies, fruits, healthy starches, and healthy fats.
- Are you doing #1 to #4 properly, consistently?
Aim for 80% consistency with these items before moving on.
And only then consider…
- When are you eating? Nutrient timing can play an important role in body composition.
Now you can consider snacks and meals, late-night, before, during and after your workout.
Nutrient timing is worth understanding to maximize your usage of fuel. Plan your macronutrient intake to promote health, workout performance, and to gain lean muscle. When you optimize the timing of your food intake, your body will use it for energy instead of storing it as fat. For a comprehensive look at this, go to http://www.precisionnutrition.com/nutrient-timing. A very thorough look at nutrient timing for intense training is contained in the following article http://www.usuhs.mil/mem/wng/WNGChapter5.pdf
A basic premise is that most of your carbohydrate (CHO) intake should occur within 2 hours of exercise, either before or after. This is the optimal time for eating carbohydrates and protein. Eating carbs within 2 hours of training allows insulin to regulate catabolic hormones- translated- if you eat carb-heavy foods within that window, you won’t store it as fat, you’ll use it as energy to rebuild muscle. Even more important, you have a 30 – 45 minute window after exercise when the receptors on muscle fibers are most open to receive the insulin generated.
Now let’s think about the biological value of foods. Always try to get the most protein per calorie- best choices are eggs, lean turkey, pork, beef, tofu, milk, yogurt, low fat cheese, nuts and seeds. You should eat protein and carbs together after a vigorous workout to maximize lean muscle growth and minimize fat stores. Fat has gotten a bad rap in recent years, but isn’t it a coincidence that rates of obesity and diabetes have risen dramatically with the onset of “low fat” foods, that use more sugar to make them tasty. Healthy triglycerides in the form of Omega 3 fats act as lubricants for joints and muscle and are necessary to maintain health and help you feel satiated. As with other types of nutrients, amounts should be carefully calibrated- check out the portion sizes at the end of this post to see if your fat intake is in line with the guidelines. Great sources of protein and fats are cold water fish like wild caught salmon, mackerel, sardines, pacific halibut, rainbow trout, arctic char, and anchovies to name a few. Nuts are great powerhouses of energy with a combination of protein and healthy fats, with the three best choices being almonds, cashews and pistachios. Watch the calorie count, as they can add up quickly – 1 ounce of the lowest calorie nut, almonds, weighs in at 160 calories. And finally, watch your daily caloric intake. A simple formula for calculating your caloric intake is to multiply your weight in kilograms (your weight in pounds divided by 2.2) x 35. This multiplier (35) should be used by the most active people; those who exercise 5-6x per week. 30 should be used by people who are most sedentary, and if you exercise 3 times a week, use 32. as a multiplier.
Portion size is one of the most commonly misunderstood aspects of weight management- use this easy portable method of determining appropriate portion sizes.
- 2 palms of protein dense foods with each meal;
- 2 fists of vegetables with each meal;
- 2 cupped hands of carb dense foods with most meals;
- 2 entire thumbs of fat dense foods with most meals.
- 1 palm of protein dense foods with each meal;
- 1 fist of vegetables with each meal;
- 1 cupped hand of carb dense foods with most meals;
- 1 entire thumb of fat dense foods with most meals.
So, what’s for dinner? If you’re female, consider a fist sized portion of lean protein , 1 fist of vegetables, and a thumb sized portion of fats (this is my salad dressing- usually vinaigrette). I often skip the carb dense foods (rice, potatoes, whole grains) in favor of a second portion of green leafy vegetables, as I love squash, sweet potatoes, beets and brussel sprouts. I’d rather consume my grains in the morning and/or have one serving at lunchtime after my workout. Here’s a great recipe that contains complex carbs and lean protein that is sure to please after a long day or intense workout.
If you can begin to incorporate just one or two principles of healthy eating along with the timing tips, you may find that weight loss and/or maintenance is easier than you think!