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Eat your way to a better workout

It's that time of year when many of us have resolved to lose weight, exercise more and eat healthier. No matter your goal, understanding how food and drink can impact your energy is important to your success.  

As a registered dietitian, I frequently see two common situations among those trying to lose weight with diet and exercise but not seeing results on the scale: 

1. Cutting back on fuel too much. We hear variations of this all over: "Cut back on calories/fat/carbs and watch the weight fall off." Cutting back too much on your body's fuel can leave you feeling tired and without enough energy to work out. Food restriction, for some, can also lead to overeating, binging and a host of negative emotions.

Here is a very simple breakdown of how nutrients work with your body: 

  • Carbohydrates are the main fuel for your muscles, brain and central nervous system. They are used by your whole body for energy.
  • Proteins are used to repair and rebuild cells and muscles, which are broken down during exercise.
  • Fats help us feel full and provide longer lasting energy.

Eliminating or severely limiting any of these nutrients can have a negative impact on your workout performance and can harm your body. Working with a nutritionist or dietitian can help you create a balanced nutrition plan for your individual goals. For example, we could define what combination of nutrients for lunch and afternoon snack would prepare you to get the most out of your evening workout. We could also determine what your body needs for recovery after the workout.  

2. Overestimating calories burned. There are a variety of fitness trackers people use to monitor their calories and exercise, which are motivating, but they are not always the most accurate at estimating calories burned. Frequently, people are overestimating the amount of calories they burn with exercise, which can lead to weight gain or lack of weight loss.     

Knowing your resting metabolic rate (the number of calories/energy required to stay alive with no activity) can help you create a smart strategy for balancing fuel intake with exercise to reach your weight and wellness goals. A dietitian or nutrition expert can administer the test and help you create a realistic plan to achieve your goals. Heart rate monitors that go around the chest seem to be more accurate at estimating calories burned than activity trackers worn on the wrist.

The right amount and type of fuel varies by individual based on lifestyle, metabolism and exercise goals. A dietitian can help you understand the balance of fuel and exercise that is right for your body, help you get comfortable with nutrition terms and what foods contain the fuel your body needs.


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