I hear it often, “I work out all the time and still can’t lose weight.” Does that sound familiar to you as well? If so, today’s post is for you.
Most likely, it’s time to reevaluate your diet. I know, I know, not the words you wanted to hear, but even small changes can get you back on track just in time for summer (ah, just typing that word excites me!). Today’s TOTW (Tip of the Week) hits on exercise and nutrition.
You may remember reading that I actually gained weight when training for a marathon. You read that right. Even running some days for multiple hours at at time, I still gained weight. Why? It’s simple – ample exercise will never make up for poor or excessive nutrition, in my case excessive nutrition. If you’re anything like me, after a hard workout my body wants nothing more than a good meal. On most days, especially if we are not careful, that post-excercise meal likely contains more calories than the amount we just burned. Research shows that people often over estimate the calories they burned during exercise and under estimate the calories in their food. Not good.
During my marathon training I can remember thinking, “I ran 6 (or 8 or 10 or 16 or 20) miles today, I can eat whatever I want!” And also this: “I don’t want to bonk on my run in the morning, I better eat something before I go to bed tonight.” Some of that might be true, I certainly didn’t want to run out of fuel 10 miles out, but it’s not like I was running those long, long distances everyday.
Let’s break it down.
Let’s say you ran 2 miles (at about a 9-10 minute mile pace) and did about 30 minutes of dumbbell weight training today. Everyone is different, but most likely, on average, during this workout you burned about 300-400 calories. That’s about a Clif Bar and a small apple. Not a lot of food you see. Certainly less than that chicken sandwich or burger and fries you grabbed on your way home from the gym.
It’s also easy to “cut yourself some slack” or “give yourself a break” because “I deserve it. I worked out today.” Extra beer or glass of wine? “Of courseeeee. I worked out today.”
Guilty as charged!
Healthy eating is an all day thing. It’s breakfast, lunch and dinner. Healthy eating is important even on the days that we work hard in or out of the gym. Even better, those are the days that we can move closer to our goals. Occasional treats are absolutely fine and, to me, absolutely necessary but simply becoming aware of what were taking in versus what were expiring will help us get the most out of our exercise regimens.
This weeks TOTW is: Poor nutrition will often negate adequate exercise: choose your foods wisely, even on the days you workout! No matter how much you workout (unless you have ridiculously good genes), a poor diet will easily halt weight loss or maintenance goals. Not only that, good nutrition will also maximize your exercise efforts!
A trick that works for me is to really focus on my post-exercise nutrition. I refuel my body, replenishing my stores as quickly as possible after a workout even if I’m not hungry. That snack holds me over until the next meal so that I won’t overeat or make poor nutrition decisions at that time. A small shake is often my go to, aiming for a ratio of 3:1 or 4:1 of carbohydrates to protein (it doesn’t have to be perfect, just get more carbs than protein). In my pantry (well, suitcase) right now:
recovery formula (carbs) + protein (I change it up often.)
You by no means have to use supplements for your post-workout nutrition. Good ol’ fashion food does the same trick! I usually do a shake/snack only if it’s going to be hours until my next meal, if not I’ll just eat my meal. Other good post-workout snack options are as follows:
- Peanut butter + banana
- Peanut butter + jelly sandwich
- Pita + hummus
- Energy bar (carbs + protein)
- Fruit + yogurt/protein powder smoothie
- Greek yogurt + granola
Just something small: think snack, not meal. Something to replenish your body, tying you over until your next meal, especially if weight loss is your goal. (Note: Please keep in mind that this is recovery nutrition for everyday, normal exercisers. Not professional athletes, body builders, extreme sport athletes, marathoners, etc. That is an entirely different beast!)
So… Eat healthy foods + Find an exercise program that you enjoy and stick to it = Happy, healthy you!
Do you find that you are less strict with your diet on days that you exercise hard? Or are those days you are even more strict with your diet? I’d love to know!