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Fuel Your Workout

Engaging in regular workouts doesn’t give you license to eat significantly more food! The best way to balance diet and exercise is to plan your menu in advance. You need fuel in the form of food, just like a car needs gas, to have the energy to press through your workout. During an average, moderate-intensity workout, a woman burns approximately 350 to 400 calories.

After Burn – extra fuel needed?

What about after burn? Doesn’t your metabolism stay elevated for the next 12 to 24+ hours? One research study found that women burned more calories for up to 67 hours following an intense 40-minute cardio workout. That sounds impressive, however, that after burn effect added up to only 50 additional calories expended (in total). One Oreo cookie (only one) has about 50 calories. Thus, the after-burn effect is pretty insignificant when you look at it from that perspective.

Pre-workout fuel

About an hour before you head outside for your run or to the gym, have a light-to-moderate-sized snack, about 150 to 250 calories on average. It should be a carbohydrate-rich snack with a bit of protein. Stear clear of high fat fare or too much protein or fiber as these nutrients delay gastric emptying and digestion, which may cause abdominal cramping. Great workout fuel snacks include a slice of whole-wheat bread with 1 TB of peanut butter, a light yogurt mixed with a 1/4 cup of reduced-fat granola or 10-oz of low-fat chocolate milk.

Post-workout fuel

Fuel properly post-workout to replace depleted glycogen stores with a meal that is composed of simple and complex carbohydrates. Healthy simple carbohydrates include fruits and dairy products. Healthy complex carbohydrates include vegetables and whole grains. Your post-workout meal should also contain a moderate amount lean protein (10 to 20 grams) and a bit of healthy fat; plus plenty of water. Again, in addition to providing your body with glucose (quick fuel) to build up the glycogen stores in your liver and muscles, a post-workout meal rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants helps to repair muscle tissue, ease post-workout soreness and replenish body fluids.

What’s a calorie?

A calorie or kilocalorie, is a unit used to measure energy. A calorie, by definition, is the amount of energy needed to raise 1 kg of water 1 degree celsius. Calories in our diet come from macronutrients or energy-yielding nutrients, which include fat, protein and carbohydrate. Carbohydrate and protein each offer 4 calories per gram while fat is much more energy-dense, providing 9 calories for every gram. Alcohol is not a nutrient but it does contain calories, specifically 7 calories per gram.

The body uses energy, in the form of calories, to perform all of its functions. If you consume more calories than your body needs, the excess may be stored as fat – leading to excessive weight. On the other hand, if/when a food shortage exists, your body can break down stored fat for energy. Losing excess body fat successfully is achieved by creating a (calorie) energy defecit. You can do this by consuming fewer calories than you need daily to maintain your weight or burning off more calories than you take in daily. Eating less through portion control, behavior modification and eating low-caloire, filling foods while increasing your level of physical activity is the best strategy for losing weight.