The key to post-workout fuel

Recently, I was asked about the importance of recovery snacks after a workout and if they help with weight loss. Refueling after a workout is important regardless of your exercise or fitness goals and in some cases, it may be the difference between making huge gains in the gym or not. Whether your focus for working out is on weight loss, muscle building or even improved body composition, a post-workout snack can complement all of these goals.

Refueling after a workout is important regardless of your exercise or fitness goals and in some cases, it may be the difference between making huge gains in the gym or not.

 

 

Why is it important to eat after a workout?

While we know how important exercise is for fitness, many of us are unaware of how significant the recovery process is for health and weight loss. It is important to re-nourish your muscles and metabolism following a workout as this will allow you to
A) refuel your engines and repair muscle tissue and
B) obtain the capability to exercise just as hard for your next workout.

Think of your body and muscles in terms of how you treat your car. Eating frequently throughout day is equivalent to making pit stops and refueling your gas tank. Just like your vehicle, constant refueling keeps your metabolism going. You wouldn’t run your car out of gas, so why would you run your body out of fuel?  When you exercise, you are revving up your metabolic engine and this can cause your body to burn up gas even faster. Missing that opportunity to refuel post-workout puts you at risk of draining your metabolic gas tank. Remember, it doesn’t matter how expensive, how brand new or how many options your car has. A car without gas is useless to you. Unfortunately, the same can be said about our metabolisms. Lack of fuel and drained metabolic gas tanks can lead to decreased functioning and performance.

If you’re a science nerd like me, you’ll want a more in-depth explanation. Having a greater understanding on what happens to our bodies on a physiological-biochemical level can help motivate positive dietary behaviors. When you work out, tiny microscopic tears occur in the muscle tissues as a result from repeated muscle contraction. Exercised muscle tissue is constantly adapting, meaning it is breaking down and rebuilding itself. Having a post-workout shake or snack can help initiate the repairing process. Ideally, this snack should be consumed within 30 minutes of finishing your workout, when your “metabolic window” is at its peak. During this time, one experiences increased blood flow to muscles, creating a faster delivery of nutrients. Insulin sensitivity and enzyme activity required for rebuilding and refueling tissue are also heightened after exercise.  Consuming your post-workout snack during this increased hormone and enzyme-activity time frame will ensure you are properly refueling your body.

What makes a perfect post-workout snack if you’re trying to lose weight?

Regardless of your goal, the best type of snack to have post-workout is a lean protein source with quick digesting carbohydrates. The combination of the two preps your muscles to act like a sponge so they more properly absorb amino acids (proteins) and glucose (carbs). Amino acids will help rebuild and repair your muscles and glucose will refuel them with energy. Protein shakes make great post workout snacks for this reason. One could also focus on whole foods such as egg whites, lean meats or other desired lean protein source coupled with fruit, sweet potatoes or preferred starchy food. While fat is incredibly important in the diet, your post-workout snack is not the time to take a lot of it in merely because of the fact that it slows down digestion and can hinder the rapid absorption process needed to initiate protein synthesis after a workout.  

Should you modify your next meal because of the post-workout snack?

Yes and no. Your first actual meal after your workout should contain a higher amount of healthy carbohydrates as compared to your other meals throughout the day. This is when I would recommend eating items such as rice, sweet potatoes and squash or whatever your favorite starch is with your protein and veggie sources. Save the salads and lower carb menu items for meals that are farther away from your workouts. In terms of calories, there is no reason to cut nutrients away from your meals to save up calories for your post-workout snack. I know it sounds counter-productive to eat what you technically just burned off, but properly re-nourishing your muscles and body will help keep your metabolism lit up all day long. Remember, a healthy metabolism is one that burns more calories overall than one that is being underfed.

Amanda  Figge

Can you control your diabetes?

World Health Day was celebrated on April 7 and this year’s theme was “Beat Diabetes.” Our department provides education for type II diabetes on a daily basis. I often find that patients are diagnosed without a clear understanding of what diabetes actually is. According to The World Health Organization, “Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.” Insulin is needed to help the body utilize carbohydrates, a main energy source found in some foods. Hyperglycemia, or elevated blood sugar, is common in uncontrolled diabetes and can lead to damage in the body over time. Damage may occur in nerves and blood vessels and may lead to problems with eyes, kidneys, and other areas of the body.

Can you control your diabetesAs a dietitian, I educate patients about foods that contain carbohydrates and turn into a form of sugar called glucose. Once carbohydrates in food turn into glucose, this has a direct impact on elevating blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. It is important to balance carbohydrates with other foods that do not have an impact on blood sugar. I use the idea below for diabetic educations:

food plate

Diabeticlivingonline.com. ¼ plate foods that contain carbohydrates and turn into glucose, ¼ plate protein that does not turn into glucose, and ½ plate non-starchy vegetables that do not turn into glucose.

Many patients have a vague understanding of foods that are “bad” and those that are “good.” They are often told that they can never eat bread or rice again. They should avoid sweets and stock up on sugar-free items. With that being said, it is so beneficial to meet with a registered dietitian to build a better knowledge about nutrition and diabetes. The “how and what you eat” are very important factors in diabetes management. Physical activity is also an essential component.

The World Health Organization estimates that 350 million people worldwide have diabetes and this number is expected to double in the next 20 years. This is such an alarming number considering many cases of type II diabetes could be prevented with better food choices and increased physical activity.

Recommendations for prevention:

  • Eat a variety of foods, including those that contain carbohydrates, lean proteins, and non-starchy vegetables.
  • Use the plate method above as a guide at main meals. www.choosemyplate.gov is a great resource when learning about the different food groups and healthy eating.
  • Aim for 150 minutes of physical activity weekly.

Click here to find out more information on World Healthy Day 2016 and diabetes.

 

Alana Scopel

On The Road Again!

travel“On the road again…just can’t wait to get on the road again.” Surprisingly, I learned all the lyrics to Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” in my 4th grade music class. For many, traveling can be disastrous when trying to stick to a healthy lifestyle. Long miles = fast food stops and long periods of inactivity. My husband and I are about to hit the slopes and enjoy some spring snowboarding in Colorado. The only thing that stands between us and the beautiful Rockies is a 14-hour car ride. Luckily for my husband, I have nominated myself as the road DJ, so we’ll be listening to jams from Hootie and the Blowfish, Ke$ha and Fleetwood Mac the whole way there. Okay, maybe not the whole way…but most of the way.

The best thing you can do to stay on track with your healthy habits while traveling is plan, plan, plan.

Plan your snacks. Nuts and homemade trail mixes that include dehydrated meats, dried fruits and nuts make great non-perishable snacks for long car rides. Another idea is to pack a small cooler or lunch box with items that need to be kept cool like fruit, hard-boiled eggs or cheese. Try to avoid foods of low nutritional value such as chips, pretzels and cookies.

  • Another tip: Try not to pack sweets for long car trips. We may have good intentions of practicing  portion control, but this often gets pushed aside when one is bored just sitting for hours upon hours. A friend of mine said she had packed a bunch of cookies to for a trip to Florida. They consumed all of them before they had even left Illinois.

Pack adequate fluids. Keep a cooler packed with extra water bottles so you’re not tempted to grab a soda or sweet tea during gas stops.

Plan your dining stops. My husband and I always have a discussion on types of restaurants we will stop for. This really helps if you know your menu items well. Chipotle is always a great go-to for us because we can load up on a good protein source and lots of veggies. If you are a Chipotle-goer yourself, then you know how awesome their guacamole is. The downfall is the price of it! I typically pack a small avocado and slice it on my burrito bowl to save money and load my meal with a heart healthy omega-9 fat. Other times, I’ll pack some veggies ahead of time, order a sandwich and just use the meat to put with my vegetables.

clock_MP900289613Watch the clock. Be mindful of how often you’re snacking. Sometimes we eat out of pure boredom when driving, so it’s especially important to pay attention to how often  you’re consuming your meals or snacks. If you’re eating every hour, it’s definitely not because of physical hunger cues.

Steer clear of high-calorie menu items. Watch out for high calorie meals, considering you haven’t exercised all day. Ways to cut back on calories include not ordering cheese on sandwiches, taking off one or even both buns from sandwiches, opting for salads or soup as side items instead of fries and the obvious–go with grilled menu items over breaded, fried options.

Start Making Healthy Changes Now

Woman Tying Measuring Tape Around Her WaistI am not an advocate for “quick fixes” like weight loss supplements, juice cleanses and the like. While quick fixes may result in fast weight loss, these results are only temporary and chances are, your depressed metabolism will cause you to rapidly gain the weight back…and then some. Seven-day or 21-day weight loss plans typically instruct you to drastically cut caloric intake and often severely limit the variation of food in your diet. Once these week-long or month-long fast diets are over with, most people resume their previous eating habits and unfortunately circle right back to square one with their weight loss efforts.

What’s unfortunate is these quick diet plans do not teach you how to eat for the long-run. You can’t drink a “body by Vi” shake forever; eventually you’re going to have to learn how to make real food for your meals. Research has shown that a multitude of different diets such as low-calorie/low-fat, high-fat/low-carb, Mediterranean diet, vegetarian diet, paleo dietetc., can all help individuals lose weight. Sometimes, losing weight is not the problem; it’s keeping the weight off. This fact stresses the importance of lifelong habits that one must take on, not quick diet fixes, in order to maintain their weight loss efforts. Here are some “quick” healthy changes that you can make today and turn into lifelong habits.

1. Start your day with protein. Breakfast is the most commonly missed meals reported by Americans of all ages. And when we think of breakfast, we typically think of a large bowl of sugary-sweetened cereal and a tall glass of orange juice. Breakfast meals high in these simple sugars can lead to a quick drop in energy come 9:00 a.m. Try to find ways to incorporate more protein with your breakfast meal. Add nuts into oatmeal, make a veggie omelet or pair fruit with high-protein Greek yogurt.

imgres2. Switch to water. Water is essential to one’s health and its benefits far surpass the simple purpose of hydration. Drinking more water is a habit I have been working on for quite some time now and it’s really sticking. As ashamed as I am to admit it, I previously was consuming about 4 diet sodas per day. To wean myself off of the diet soda, I would tell myself for every soda I consumed, I would have to drink a bottle of water. Now I keep a water bottle with me at all times so there are no excuses for not drinking enough water.

3. Stop serving multiple starches with meals. This is an easy fix that will help you naturally control your carbohydrate intake with your meals and make them more well-rounded. Our typical American western diet revolves around meat, potatoes, bread or some other starch like noodles and rice or corn and peas with most of our meals. Begin your meals by choosing a healthy lean protein, add one starch (preferably a healthy starchy vegetable like sweet potatoes or butternut squash) and fill the rest of your plate with non-starchy vegetables and fruit, if preferred.

4. Bring your own snacks to work. It seems almost every week, someone brings in a new “Pinterest-inspired” sweet treat to share with everyone at work. Sure, these decadent treats look great, but consuming these items regularly as snack choices can lead one to a spike in blood sugar followed by a drop in energy. Plan ahead and make sure you always have healthy, nutrient-dense snacks packed with you for your workday. If you feel bad about turning down your co-worker’s cheesecake bites, you can politely decline by saying you had already packed an apple with almond butter for your snack today. Or a simple, “No thanks, but thanks for asking,” always does the trick too!

exercise_02F026015. Exercise. Daily physical activity is one of the most important keys for a healthy metabolism and weight management. It’s time to put the “excuse book” away and start moving today.

Figge’s Favorite Groceries

grocery shoppingWith the success of  Figge’s Favorite Things blog post, I thought I would follow up with a list of some of my favorite foods that frequently occupy my shopping list. Years ago, my diet heavily consisted of processed luncheon meats, frozen dinners and snack bars. Today, fresh fruits, vegetables and meats are typically what fill up my grocery cart. This was no overnight process, but slowly, I began to step outside my comfort zone and taught myself how to prepare and cook with fresh ingredients. To stay healthy, I rely on clean, minimally processed foods. Combined with a healthy dose of physical activity each week, clean eating helps keep my cholesterol down, energy up and promotes a good night’s sleep.

  1. Eggs. Eggs have been hounded over the years for their fat and cholesterol content. However, with today’s research on eggs, we are learning that 1) the cholesterol found in eggs is not what is causing high cholesterol in individuals and 2) the benefits of the yolks include a Vitamin B12 source, eye-healthy lutein , zeaxanthin antioxidants, and choline, which is essential for cardiovascular and brain function.
  2. fresh-spinachSpinach. This green giant gets sautéed in with my eggs each morning and makes several appearances in other meals throughout the week.
  3. Peanut or almond butter. If I could eat almond butter every day, I would; but because the cost of it is often more than peanut butter, I tend to go back and forth between these heart-healthy fat and protein snack additions.
  4. Cauliflower. My kitchen often looks like a cauliflower war zone. For those of you that regularly cut up cauliflower, you know what I’m talking about! My preferred way of cooking it is steaming in a sauce pan and then mashing it in my food processor. Add a pinch of salt, garlic powder, onion powder, butter and garnish with chives and you have a great vegetable side dish (not to mention for the cost of $3 or less!)
  5. Spaghetti Squash. We have been having a lot of fun with spaghetti squash this winter. It is a great substitute for pasta in recipes. To me, it is not very tasty when served plain, but if you add mixed vegetables, seasonings, sauces or a homemade mayo to the mix, you’re set-to-go for a delicious meal.
  6. Chicken. This is the most popular protein consumed in our household. For that reason, I am constantly finding new ways to season and prepare it. We also consume beef, pork and fish but chicken definitely takes the podium for most consumed.
  7. Apples. This fruit is a good source of antioxidants and soluble fiber. I usually have at least one and sometimes two apples a day with my peanut or almond butter for heart-healthy, filling snacks.
  8. Whey protein powder. Since both my husband and I do Crossfit, we need a quick source of protein for our post-workout snacks. One scoop of protein powder poured in 8 oz. of almond milk allows my body to quickly refuel after a workout, promote lean tissue growth and speed up recovery time.
  9. Ground flaxseed. This antioxidant powerhouse can be easily mixed into recipes or sauces or can even be sprinkled on top of foods to add fiber, omega-3 and healthy lignans to any dish.
  10. Sweet potato. These Vitamin A giants interestingly are most often consumed with my breakfast meal. I’ll sauté a medium-large sweet potato in 1 Tbsp of coconut oil on Sunday nights and then portion out servings to grab and go for the week. NCI5_POTATO

How Carb Smart Are You?

Carbohydrate-food-shot-carbsWhat do breads, cereals, fruits, juices, milk, yogurt, pasta, rice, potatoes, beans, vegetables, soda and desserts all have in common? If you didn’t already guess it from the title, it’s Carbs. When asked what foods contain carbohydrates, bread, pasta and potatoes are the most commonly identified. Many people do not realize that carbs are actually found in almost our entire food supply with the exception of meats, cheeses and fats.

As Americans, we generally consume way too many carbs throughout the day. Most breakfast meals include toast, Poptarts, pancakes, biscuits or cereal followed by sandwiches, pizza, spaghetti and burger and fries for the rest of the day. These foods are also highly processed menu items that often contain preservatives and other added chemicals.

Do I feel that carbs are contributing to many of our current diseases and illnesses? Absolutely. Does that mean that in order to be healthy, one must cut out all carbs? Not at all.  In fact, many athletes actually need to increase their carbohydrate intake to ensure optimal performance. Research has shown that vegetarians, who are known for having high-carb diets, tend to have reduced risks for obesity, diabetes and heart disease.1

Going “low-carb” is a very popular diet trend to lose weight. While consuming fewer carbohydrates can help decrease circulating levels of insulin, which in turn can help the body switch to a fat-burning mode, weight loss is typically more attributed (but not conclusive in all studies) to the combination of consuming fewer calories, better food choices, less processed foods and improved physical activity habits. Researchers in a 2007 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggest that low-carb diets may give individuals a “metabolic advantage” meaning that more weight loss may be achieved per calories consumed (versus the same amount of calories consumed from a standard high-carb meal plan).2  

This is a very controversial subject since these findings somewhat violate the laws of thermodynamics. Since there is no consensus on what low-carb actually is (for some studies it’s a mere 5% of total calories and for others it’s defined as 45% of total caloric intake), the term smart-carb has become more popular.

download

Today, research is investigating the health benefits of low-moderate carb meal plans:

  • Following a “smart-carb” diet in addition to exercise can help improve insulin sensitivity and assist in weight reduction in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
  • A Duke University study found that obese individuals with type 2 diabetes who ate a low-carb diet versus a low-glycemic diet experienced greater weight reduction and greater reduction in HgbA1C. In this same study, most of the subjects (95.2%) in the low-carb group were able to reduce or eliminate their diabetic medications compared to only (62%) in the low-glycemic group.3
  • There also appears to be some variation in low-carb meal plans. A group of Swedish subjects showed greater benefits in waist circumference reduction and improved blood sugar control when following a diet based of meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, eggs and nuts (paleo diet) when compared to a subjects who followed the Mediterranean diet.4
  • The obvious concern with consuming a low-carb diet is the increased fat intake and potential increased risk for heart disease. Fortunately, studies are confirming that higher fat intake when associated with a low-carb diet may not be as big of a problem as once thought.

Low-carb meal plans may not always be the best, but choosing smart-carb lifestyles such as the Mediterranean and Paleo lifestyles are much more suitable for day to day living. Here are a few ways to smarten up your carb choices.

  • Nix pretzels, crackers, chips and granola bars and opt for healthier carb and non-carb snack food choices such as fruits, vegetables, yogurt and nuts.
  • Vary up your breakfast meal. Swap sugar-sweetened cereal and refined white bread for a veggie omelet, turkey sausage frittata or fruit with Greek yogurt.
  • Serve vegetables with a side of vegetables. Many people state that they always have to have a starch with their dinner meals. Why not swap the rice and pasta for vegetable starches such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash or spaghetti squash?
  • If choosing grains, consider whole grain choices such as oatmeal, quinoa or wild rice.

Remember, limiting carbs is not the only way for improved health. The mere reduction of processed foods in one’s diet can have positive health effects.

  1. American Heart Association. Vegetarian Diets. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/Vegetarian-Diets_UCM_306032_Article.jsp
  2. Westman, E., et. Al. (2007). Low-carbohydrate nutrition and metabolism. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 86(2), 276-284. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/2/276.full.pdf+html?sid=ac06d160-abd0-4ba6-8a19-8b5560469446
  3. Westman, E.C., Yancy, W,S, Jr., Mavropoulos, J.C., Marquart, M. and McDuffie, J.R. (2008).The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-glycemic index diet on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes. Nutrition and Metabolism, 5, 36. http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/5/1/36
  4. Lindeberg, S., Jönsson, T., Granfeldt, Y., et al. (2007). A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease. Diabetologia,50(9):1795-1807.