In the pursuit of better health and fitness, many people refine their diet and exercise routine and eventually merge the two. Then the question arises: should I eat before training? If? How much?
Getting these facets of diet in a nutshell before a workout can help you get the most out of your workout and prepare your body to recover for your next workout.
Let me start by saying that it is recommended to eat before training, especially if the training is longer than 45 minutes. The modern day myth that exercising without food in the stomach helps the body burn more fat is just that – a myth. This is not how the body works and is not recommended. One study analyzed changes in fat and muscle mass in two groups of young women: one group completed a four-week training program on an empty stomach, the other ate a meal before each training session. Both groups lost weight and body fat, and the researchers did not find any significant differences between the results of the two groups. They concluded that not eating before exercising did not improve weight loss or fat loss success compared to exercising in a nourished state.
Many people looking to lose weight see exercise as a way to increase the amount of calories they consume each day. Studies have shown that if you have eaten before, the number of calories burned after exercise increases significantly.
Additionally, focusing on pre-exercise diet can boost your immunity. High-intensity exercise can suppress your immune system and response, especially if you do this type of exercise regularly or over a long period of time. By having a meal or snack beforehand, you are preparing to fight this immune deficiency, keep your body strong, and have a good rest.
So let’s talk about what to eat and when. The main source of fuel for your brain and body is carbohydrates, which will be the key component in your pre-workout diet. When we move, our muscles use fatty acids and carbohydrates to produce energy that drives muscle contractions. We often switch between fat and carbohydrates for energy sources, but it takes longer to break down fats to use for energy. The longer and harder we train, the more the body will rely on carbohydrates.
We store carbohydrates in three places: in the muscle; the liver and our bloodstream. Carbohydrates stored in muscle and liver are stored as glycogen. Our muscle stores are the most important and can store around 1200-2000 calories worth of glycogen, while the liver can store around 300-400 calories. The carbohydrates in our bloodstream have around 60-80 calories and play the role of maintaining our blood sugar.
When you exercise more than an hour or more times a day, pre-exercise diet becomes more important and can make a huge difference in your feeling and performance. It’s best not to have a large meal right before your workout, so you’ll want to eat something larger between an hour and four before that. The exact time will vary depending on your schedule and stomach. The main focus of this meal should be on the carbohydrates and proteins that provide the building blocks of muscle in your body. It has also been postulated that pre-workout protein could contribute to a better post-workout muscle building response, which has benefits both before and after exercise.
The effects of skipping this meal can also persist throughout the day. For example, one study showed that not eating breakfast with a good source of carbohydrates can affect exercise performance later in the evening, even if the missed breakfast calories are made up at lunch. Some excellent examples of meals to eat in the recommended pre-workout window include: Greek yogurt with fruit, 3-4 eggs with multiple slices of toast, or a PB&J sandwich with a glass of milk.
The closer you get to your training session, the more you want to minimize your consumption of too much fiber or fat. We usually love fiber, which is beneficial to a healthy diet. But fiber takes longer to digest and produce gas while it is broken down, which can be uncomfortable and problematic when exercising. Fat also stays in the stomach longer.
To adjust your fiber intake, choose less fibrous carbohydrates like white bread versus whole grains or white rice versus brown rice. Fiber is what gives whole grains / wheat and brown rice their dark color – when removed we have the lighter counterparts. Fibrous whole grains and grains are mostly the best choices because they provide more nutrients. The less fibrous carbohydrates should be chosen as a strategic nutritional choice as you approach your workout. When reading food labels, try to aim for less than 5 grams of carbohydrates per serving.
As you near your workout hour, a snack of concentrated, low-fiber carbohydrates will provide that extra bit of energy that can help keep your gas tank from running out of gas. Since fiber slows digestion, we need quick digestible snacks that can be used as an instant source of energy. Snacks like applesauce, dried fruit, white toast with jelly, fruit snacks, or even 2-3 pieces of fruit are excellent choices. If you exercise in the heat and lose a lot of salt through sweating, pretzels are a handy pre-workout snack. Drinking 8 ounces of a sports drink can also do the job, as the carbohydrates in these drinks are designed to be digested quickly and promote better hydration. That pre-workout snack doesn’t have to be big or crazy; just a little of the right something can go a long way.
You may need to experiment to find out what works best for you and goes well with your routine. Now that you’re ready for the workout, stay tuned for the next Fuel Up column on how to recover from your workout!
Emma Willingham is a registered nutritionist practicing in an outpatient hospital clinic and in her private practice, Fuel with Emma. You can find her on social media at @fuelwithemma.
Is Fruit Juice Good for You? Here’s What Happens When You Drink It
Many think that fruit juice is good for you, but there are some drawbacks to the drink that you should be aware of.
What Really Happens To Your Body When examines the effects of general behaviors, actions and habits in your daily life.
Many people grew up on fruit juices like orange or apple juice, which are a healthy staple food. After all, there was a time when you were unlikely to see a breakfast advert that did not include a glass of OJ as part of a “nutritious breakfast.”
While fruit juice provides vitamins and minerals, there are a number of drawbacks to these beverages, disguised under the guise of a health halo.
That doesn’t mean you have to cut it out of your diet entirely: 100 percent fruit juice with no added sugar can be part of a healthy diet, as per the American Nutrition Guidelines 2020-2025. Still, drinking fruit juice does not offer all of the benefits that consuming a piece of fruit would.
While the USDA considers 1 cup of fruit juice to be 1 cup of fruit for your Recommended Daily Allowance, it notes that fruit in its overall form offers more benefits, including filling with fiber, which can help lower a person’s cholesterol and heart risk to lower disease.
Here’s a look at what really happens when you drink fruit juice every day and how to incorporate it into a healthy diet.
1. Your blood sugar could skyrocket
Expect a sugar high and crash if you drink too much fruit juice.
“Whenever you drink juice, the natural sugar and added sugars in the juice are quickly absorbed by your body,” Alexandra Salcedo, RD, a registered nutritionist at UC San Diego Health, told LIVESTRONG.com. “This rapid energy intake leads to an increase in blood sugar.”
Your pancreas makes a hormone called insulin, which the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) says is continuously released into the bloodstream. The job of insulin is to drive sugar out of the bloodstream into muscle, fat and liver cells, where it can be stored for later use. Your body carefully calibrates the levels of insulin in your bloodstream, and when you have low insulin levels, sugar is released back into the bloodstream.
Type 2 diabetes is believed to be a progression from normal blood sugar levels to prediabetes and ultimately a diagnosis of overt diabetes, according to UCSF. Each of these phases is defined by the blood sugar level. Prediabetes and diabetes occur when the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to balance blood sugar.
“Patients who have diabetes or have problems controlling their blood sugar levels will experience increases in blood sugar when they take fruit juice,” says Salcedo. “High fruit juice consumption can negatively affect blood sugar management in people with diabetes or those taking steroid drugs.”
According to Harvard Health Publishing, foods are assigned a glycemic index based on how slowly or quickly they raise blood sugar levels.
People with prediabetes or diabetes need to focus on foods with a low glycemic index; People with type 1 diabetes cannot make enough insulin, and people with type 2 diabetes are resistant to insulin. In both types of diabetes, highly glycemic foods can lead to blood sugar spikes.
Apple juice has a glycemic index of 44 and orange juice has a glycemic index of 50, just slightly below that of soda, which has a glycemic index of 63, according to Oregon State University. For comparison: honey has a glycemic index of 61.
In comparison, a whole raw apple has a glycemic index of only 39 and a whole raw orange has a glycemic index of only 40.
“People with diabetes or prediabetes should avoid drinking juice because it causes blood sugar to rise, which can lead to insulin resistance,” says Salcedo. “I would strongly recommend eating the fruit whole instead of drinking it in juice form.”
2. You can add more vitamins and minerals to your diet
Juice has traditionally been touted for its benefits, and these still exist despite its effects on blood sugar.
“Fruit juice can offer some health benefits, including a variety of vitamins and minerals,” says registered nutritionist Shena Jaramillo, RD. “Juices like orange juice and apple juice provide vitamin C, which helps with iron absorption, anti-inflammatory and immunity enhancement. Some juices are also fortified with calcium and iron, which aid blood circulation and bone density.”
Consider the nutritional profile of orange juice and apple juice:
orange juice(Per 1-cup serving)
- Calories: 112
- Total fat: 0.5 g
- Carbohydrates: 25.8 g
- Protein: 1.7 g
- Vitamin C: 124 mg (138% DV)
- Potassium: 496 mg (11% DV)
- Iron: 0.5 mg (3% DV)
- Calcium: 27.3 mg (2% DV)
Apple juice(Per 1-cup serving)
- Calories: 114
- Total fat: 0.3 g
- Carbohydrates: 28 g
- Protein: 0.2 g
- Potassium: 250.5 mg (5% DV)
- Vitamin C: 2.2 mg (2% DV)
- Calcium: 19.8 mg (2% DV)
- Iron: 0.3 mg (2% DV)
These nutrients aren’t unique to fruit juices, however – which means you can get them, as well as other benefits like fiber, from eating whole fruits and other foods.
“While we can get some micronutrients from juice, we can probably easily get them from other sources in our diet,” says Jaramillo.
When choosing fruit juices, keep in mind that not all are created equal. “One hundred percent pulp and fortified fruit juice concentrate are the healthiest options when you want to drink juice,” says Salcedo.
3. You’re going to miss fiber
When you drink fruit juice as a whole fruit substitute, you are missing out on the fruit’s fiber, which is one of the nutrients that makes the product so healthy in the first place.
“I like to think of drinking fruit juice like orange juice, like sitting down with four to five oranges, squeezing out all the juice and throwing out the fiber,” says Jaramillo. While a cup of orange juice contains only 0.5 grams of fiber, a large whole orange contains 4.4 grams of fiber, according to the USDA.
Similarly, a cup of apple juice has 0.5 grams of fiber, but a large apple has 5.4 grams of fiber, also according to the USDA.
Fiber plays an important role in an overall healthy diet: it helps lower cholesterol, normalizes bowel movements and maintains bowel health, helps you maintain a healthy weight, and controls blood sugar levels, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Whole fruits like apples and oranges contain a type of fiber called soluble fiber that can lower blood cholesterol and improve blood sugar levels, according to the Mayo Clinic. Soluble fiber can also reduce gas and bloating.
Insoluble fiber, found in foods like fruits with edible peels (like apples), vegetables, and whole grains (like cereals and brown rice), help move the material through your digestive system.
Eating these whole fruits (especially apples, grapes, and blueberries) was significantly linked to a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, while drinking more fruit juice was linked to a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, so a study published in the British Medical Journal in August 2013. The study authors tracked the diets of more than 187,000 people and found that fiber may be one component that may be responsible for the beneficial effects.
Most Americans don’t get enough fiber: their daily fiber intake averages around 15 grams per day, which is below the recommended total intake of 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day per UCSF.
Fruit juice can be high in calories, which can lead to weight gain if you drink too much of it over time.
“If someone drinks more than one glass of 2.3 grams of juice a day, it can certainly lead to weight gain,” says Jaramillo. “From a caloric point of view, drinking several glasses of juice a day is equivalent to drinking several sodas. It doesn’t add any nutritional value, but it puts a strain on calories and sugar.”
If you stick to an 8-ounce glass of juice a day and have an otherwise balanced diet and exercise routine, you are unlikely to see any negative consequences from sipping a daily juice, adds Jaramillo. It’s easy to drink way more than the 1 cup serving size if you pour yourself a glass of fruit juice without thinking about the serving size.
“This is largely related to the average size of household glasses – a tall glass usually contains at least 16 ounces (two servings) of juice, which can be over 300 calories,” says Jaramillo. “If you choose a tall glass, fill it half full or make sure you have smaller glasses on hand to drink some juice.”
What you eat and drink can affect your teeth – too much fruit juice can increase your risk of permanent tooth erosion.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), this can lead to pain or tenderness when drinking hot, cold, or sweet beverages, yellowing of teeth, and an increased risk of tooth decay.
Acidic drinks like apple and orange juice can contribute to erosion, so according to the ADA, it’s best to make this an occasional treat rather than a daily habit.
Drinking fruit juice on a daily basis includes some important nutrients in your diet – but you can get these nutrients from other foods too, without the disadvantages of fruit juice.
The negative effects of drinking fruit juice can include possible weight gain, tooth decay, and an increase in your blood sugar levels.
Drinking fruit juice daily, in particular, can be risky for diabetics. “In certain conditions, such as diabetes, juice consumption can cause blood sugar to rise and fall rapidly, which can be problematic,” says Jaramillo.
You also miss out on the many health benefits of fiber when you replace whole fruits with fruit juice. “I would recommend eating the whole fruit instead of fruit juice to get the fiber and other nutrients that are naturally found in the fruit,” says Salcedo.
“You can have your favorite fruit juice every now and then, but I wouldn’t recommend drinking it every day.”
Best Foods to Eat After a Run, According to a Dietician
Every run is a good run. Whether it’s marathon training, light jogging or sprinting, the health benefits of a higher gear are enormous. So what’s the best way to optimize it? Most people shut down their diet before running – especially what they will eat before a run or competition. This is important, of course, but what you eat after a run is just as important for recovery. The average routine after a run is usually like this: stumble through the door, sweat a bit, sit down, shower. What is missing here is the refueling phase. You have to regain what you drained.
Depending on your goals – i.e., training for a marathon or just more regular weekly mileage – your post-run diet should aim to refuel, rebuild, and rehydrate to aid the recovery process and maximize the training effect. The focus of your post-run diet should be on replenishing glycogen (stored energy), repairing the damage done to your muscles, and replacing lost nutrients and minerals such as electrolytes.
Here are three guidelines to follow when figuring out what to eat after a run:
- Focus on complex carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores in your liver and muscles: The recommended amount is 0.5-0.7 grams of carbohydrates per kg of body weight within 30 minutes of training – for glycogen resynthesis.
- Replace electrolytes, minerals, and water that you’ve lost through sweat: Hydration is key as your body and muscles are mostly made up of water. A weight loss of just 2 percent through sweat can lead to reduced performance and cognitive decline. Although the sweat rate and the concentration of sodium in sweat are very individual, you should add some sodium and chloride as these are the two most important electrolytes that are lost in sweat. Also take into account plenty of water. Approximately 16 fluid ounces of H2O per pound will be lost during your run.
- Build and Repair Your Muscles Damaged During Your Run: Adding some protein to your diet after your run has been shown to help the muscles absorb carbohydrates. Aim for 0.14-0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Look for a carbohydrate to protein ratio of 3: 1 or 4: 1 within 30 minutes. Do not wait more than two hours to get back to eating.
The best foods to eat after a kickstart recovery run
1. Chocolate milk
Chocolate milk takes the top spot here because it happens to be the perfect post-run drink. It’s packed with high quality protein and those fast-digesting carbohydrates for muscle regeneration and glycogen synthesis. Low-fat chocolate milk already has a carbohydrate to protein ratio of 4: 1 and is probably the best-researched post-workout recovery option on this list for superior workout recovery benefits. Lactose intolerant? Become lactose-free and still benefit from all the advantages.
2. Greek yogurt with berries and honey
Greek yogurt is superior to traditional yogurt in that it contains much more protein – one cup provides 15 grams of protein compared to about 5 grams for the same amount of regular yogurt. Top this with mixed berries and honey for some quickly digestible carbohydrates and antioxidants for muscle recovery.
3. Eggs and toast
Each egg contains around 6-7 grams of high quality protein. Cook two or three of these in a few minutes, place them on a couple of slices of whole grain bread for high quality carbohydrates – and do the math. You are done.
4. Avocado toast with poached eggs
Start with a high-protein whole grain bread option like Dave’s Killer Bread, then mash some avocados with salt and pepper for healthy fats and some sodium and chloride for electrolytes. Top with a few poached eggs (fried or scrambled eggs is fine) for your protein.
5. Salmon, sweet potatoes, and asparagus
In addition to being a great source of protein, salmon offers post-exercise recovery benefits as it is high in healthy, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Combine your fish with sweet potatoes or brown rice to add some carbohydrates. Add asparagus or broccoli to round out a full post-run meal.
6. Tuna and whole grain crackers
Tuna is handy to eat anywhere after your run. I especially love these extra portable tuna bags. Tear it open and your simple 24-25 gram protein snack is ready. Combine it with some whole grain crackers for high quality carbohydrates.
7. Cottage cheese with pineapple
Cottage cheese is a great source of protein, providing both whey protein (more digestible) and casein protein (slower). One cup of cottage cheese provides 28 grams of protein – plus its sodium content helps replenish lost electrolytes. Add in a favorite fruit (I’ll use pineapple) for an extra easy carb boost.
8. English muffin or bagel with nut butter and banana
Choose a whole grain English muffin or gel for an easily digestible, high quality source of carbohydrates with some healthy fiber. Top it off with nut butter (see Nooty protein-rich nut spreads), a sliced banana, and a dash of honey.
9. Protein oatmeal with blueberries and peanut butter
Oatmeal is a high quality source of carbohydrates and is rich in a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which is beneficial for digestion and intestinal health. Prepare your oats with milk and add ½ to 1 scoop of your favorite whey protein powder. Top with blueberries and blackberries, which provide powerful antioxidant compounds called flavonoids that aid regeneration. Top it off with peanut butter for healthy fat.
10. DIY protein shake
Protein shakes have long been the staple food for regeneration after training – especially for building muscle. It’s also the perfect elixir for post-run recovery. Get creative with your shakes. There are tons of protein options (whey, plant-based, nut butters, Greek yogurt, etc.) and the fruit choices (bananas, berries, pineapples, mangoes, etc.) are also diverse. Adding extra nutrients like spinach, kale, or avocados will earn you extra points. Here’s my perfect post-run smoothie recipe:
Berry Have a good rest
Put all ingredients except protein powder in the blender and mix on a low level. Then protein powder and mix again until a smooth consistency is achieved.
- 292 calories
- 34g of carbohydrates
- 25g protein
- 7g fat
Jordan Mazur, MS, RD, is the nutrition director for the San Francisco 49ers
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1 in 5 Parents Too Busy to Cook During Pandemic: Fast, Healthy Options
Share on PinterestA new study found that many parents say their children were more likely to eat fast food during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, health experts say there are alternatives to eating that are quick, easy, and nutritious. mixetto / Getty Images
- According to a new survey, one in five parents said they were feeding their children more fast food than before the pandemic.
- Parents of overweight children reported eating out at least twice a week.
- The reasons given were being too busy or too stressed.
- However, experts say that having a healthy meal at home doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming.
- They suggest that working on healthy behaviors rather than dieting is the best approach for children.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many families found options for healthier diets and more physical activity.
For others, however, it meant more stress and less exercise as the home shifted to school and work.
This has also made it difficult for parents to find the time or energy to prepare always nutritious meals at home.
According to the University of Michigan Health’s CS Mott Children’s Hospital national child health survey, roughly one in five parents said their children had started eating fast food more often than before the pandemic.
The survey, which included responses from 2,019 parents of children aged 3 to 18, found that roughly one in six parents said their child eats fast food at least twice a week.
Parents who reported their children were overweight also reported their children ate fast food twice a week, compared to parents who reported their child was a healthy weight for their age and height.
When asked why they couldn’t prepare meals at home, around 40 percent of parents said they were just too busy.
About a fifth of parents said they felt too stressed.
These barriers to eating healthy have been most commonly reported by families with overweight children.
However, nutritionists say putting together a healthy meal at home doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. It doesn’t necessarily have to be cooked once.
Dr. Mary-Jon Ludy, Chair of the Department of Public Health and Associated Health at Bowling Green State University’s College of Health and Human Services and Associate Professor of Food and Nutrition, suggests using the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as a starting point for planning your meals.
“In summary, half of our plates should be filled with fruits and vegetables, half of our grains should be whole, proteins should be lean, dairy products should be low in fat, and variety is encouraged,” said Ludy.
Some of the simple meal suggestions Ludy offered included:
- For breakfast, low-fat natural yogurt with fresh or frozen fruits, chopped nuts and whole grain muesli.
- For lunch, a nut butter sandwich on wholemeal bread filled with sliced apples or bananas, with baby carrots or cucumber as a side dish and a low-fat milk to drink.
- For dinner, whole grain tortillas with black beans or shredded chicken, brown rice, avocado puree, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and grated cheese.
- As a snack between meals, hummus with sliced peppers or whole grain crackers.
“These are great options,” said Ludy, “because they require minimal prep time, healthy carbohydrates and lean proteins are balanced, have a variety of fillings / additives, and are simple enough to involve children in prep.”
Therese S. Waterhous, PhD, RDN, CEDRD-S, an in-house eating disorders expert in Corvallis, Oregon, said the best way to lose weight, especially in children, is to take a nutrition-free approach. Diets don’t work, she explained, and most people put back any weight they lose.
“Instead of dieting, it’s good to choose healthy behaviors and work on them,” she said.
She said food shouldn’t be taboo when eating, but rather focus on optimizing health so that children can grow and reach their potential.
She suggested that making young children or teenagers feel bad about their bodies was “critical”. This leads to stress and, in some cases, eating disorders.
“Weight stigma is very harmful to children and is prevalent in our society,” said Waterhous. “Instead of focusing on weight, it is best to focus on these health behaviors.”
Instead of demonizing certain foods, focus on getting enough fuel, enough protein, enough vitamins and minerals, she said.
In particular, she said, most young people are not getting enough products that provide essential nutrients and fiber. She suggests adding two to three servings of vegetables or fruit to each meal. One serving is about 1/2 cup or a medium-sized piece of fruit, she added.
However, even with the best of intentions, there can be times when a quick meal at a restaurant is the option that best fits your busy schedule.
Ludy offers the following tips to help you make the best choices when eating out:
- Add vegetables whenever you can. For example, ask for lettuce and tomatoes on sandwiches, peppers and onions on burritos, or mushrooms and olives on pizza.
- Choose beverages like water, 100 percent fruit juice, or simple low-fat milk instead of sodas or sweet tea.
- Opt for side dishes like apple slices or carrot sticks instead of french fries or fries.
- Order small or child-sized portions.
- Try to make fast food only occasionally.
- Model healthy eating for your children by making healthy choices for yourself.
Waterhou also suggests that you can get a sandwich or fried chicken from the grocery store as a base for your meal. Then add simple options like a fruit salad, a mixed salad, or vegetables at home to complete your meal.
To add some starch to your chicken, you could have rice, mashed potatoes, or a slice of bread, she said. You can even prepare your side dishes in advance and reheat them for dinner.
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