This question is pretty simple; however, the answer isn’t quite as straightforward. The best answer is that it isn’t good or bad whether or not you eat before exercise.
To answer as correctly and thoroughly as possible, I did a lot of research instead of merely giving you my opinion on the subject.
The reason for eating before a workout is so that you’ll have energy when you’re going through your program or following an exercise class. But it’s all about balance. There’s a pretty thin line between providing enough food to give you a needed boost and feeling overly full when you’re working out.
Once, a bunch of us had come from yoga pictorials and we were running late for my evening yoga class, which they all were attending. Everyone was starving because, of course, we had done the pictorials on empty stomachs so we’d be able to do difficult poses looking as fit as possible.
We still had about an hour so we ordered several vegetarian pizzas to go and ate them on the way to class. Unfortunately, they took a bit long to fill the orders so we were not only hungrier, we were also so late that we only had enough time to munch quickly and put our mats in place.
In a class of about 20 or so people that night, there were about six of us who were feeling really sick, especially during the bent-over stretches! I’m sure I am speaking for all of us when I say we learned our lesson.
Research shows that when you eat before exercise instead of exercising with an empty stomach, it improves your athletic performance. We’re not talking about full meal here; this is just a snack, so generally, a snack taken before an activity will provide fuel for that activity – or practice, game, workout, run, etc. – depending on how long the session lasts.
When you exercise with an empty stomach, your body burns more fat than if you ate before you exercised, But – and this is an important consideration – your body also ends up burning lean mass or muscle.
Remember that your body will still burn fat even if you don’t exercise with an empty stomach; it just won’t burn as much. But to be able to burn fat as a fuel, your body needs carbohydrates.
Also, a snack before a workout will keep you from becoming very hungry after a workout, which happens often and ends up making you eat more than you intend to and definitely more than is good for you.
If you decide to go ahead and eat before exercise, these are the best ways to do it for maximum benefit:
• Choose a light 200- to 300-calorie meal containing some carbohydrates and protein.
• Allow at least one half to an hour to pass before you begin your workout.
• Dehydrated muscles perform poorly so drink water not just before, during, and after a workout, but throughout the day.
• Don’t go longer than four hours without eating. Make sure that in between meals, instead of suddenly feeling hungry and grabbing the nearest unhealthy snack, you have planned nutritious snacks.
Some possibilities (these can also be breakfast if you exercise early in the morning):
• egg whites
• cottage cheese
• nonfat or low-fat yogurt
• protein shake
• fruits (bananas, oranges, apples, grapes)
• unsalted and/or whole-grain crackers
• a slice of whole-wheat or multi-grain bread
• soups that are low in fat and salt (pureed soups, minestrone, miso, etc.)
Avoid high-fat proteins:
• peanut butter
• red meat
These take longer to digest and sometimes make you feel even more tired. Look for food that is quickly digested and absorbed. Experiment with various options.
And if you have an important event or scheduled workout activity with a friend, this may not be the best time to try a new food, just to be safe.
Sources: Go Ask Alice! Columbia University Health Services; Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 1997; American Dietetic Association.
Note: I heard from some friends and readers that my mail bounces. If it does, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Latest and Greatest Weight-Loss Diet — Again?” This was the title of the talk given by Nenette C. Umali, RND, of the St. Luke’s Medical Center’s Obesity and Weight Management Center in the seminar on “Diets for Weight Management,” which was held recently at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong City. The seminar was organized by the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), a non-profit partnership among industry, academe, and government. “We aim to foster scientific understanding through conferences, workshops, and journals,” Dr. Rodolfo F. Florentino, coordinator of the Philippine committee of the ILSI Southeast Asia Region, explains.
“Fad diets often sound good,” Umali notes, “but typically fall short of delivering on their promises. Some interventions entail greater dangers than the risk of being overweight. The negative effects must be carefully considered before embarking on any weight loss program.” Umali gave some simple guidelines for identifying fad diets and other weight-loss scams. If they promote dramatic and rapid weight loss, you have to wonder and to question, she said.
Ideal weight loss should be gradual and should not exceed two pounds per week. Be wary if they promote diets that are nutritionally unbalanced or extremely low in calories, such as the so-called “starvation diet” or the “no diet diet.” You should be able to get a balanced assortment of vitamins and minerals from a variety of foods. And you should drink at least one liter of water daily.
Liquid formulas do not make a good replacement for a regular or a balanced meal. Foods should accommodate a person’s ethnic background, taste preferences, as well as financial means. Often, it is more expensive to go “on diet,” Umali observes. Programs should teach clients how to make good choices from the conventional food supply and not attempt to make them dependent on special foods or devices. It is not a good program if they fail to encourage permanent, realistic lifestyle changes. Programs should provide physical activity plans that involve spending at least 300 calories a day and behavior modification strategies that help to correct poor eating habits. Beware if they misrepresent sales people as “counselors” supposedly qualified to give guidance in nutrition or general health; or if they collect large sums of money at the start or require that clients sign contracts for expensive, long-term programs. Take note if they fail to inform clients of the risks associated with weight loss in general, or the specific program being promoted; or if they promote unproven or spurious weight loss aids and gimmicks such as the use of belts or creams or certain passive exercises. “How can you expect to lose weight if you are just sitting on a chair?” Umali asks. Hot baths, for example, neither speed up metabolism nor melt fat. It just makes you dehydrated, so you lose water weight, not fat.
“It’s a simple mathematical equation,” Umali explains, “energy in, plus energy out, equals energy balance. The reality, of course, is much more complex. If energy intake is too low or if too little carbohydrate or protein is supplied, the body must degrade its own lean tissue to meet its glucose and protein needs. If energy intake is too high, the body stores fat. The weight appropriate for an individual depends largely on factors specific to the individual, including body fat distribution, family health history, and current health status. At the extremes, both overweight and underweight carry clear risks to health.”
Balance is key. Pediatric-endocrinologist, Dr. Sioksuan Chan-Chua of the Philippine Association for the Study of Overweight and Obesity, agrees. The good thing about addressing the problem early among young children is that it is still reversible. Dietary management is important as well as physical activity and behavioral intervention. “We need to take control of our life,” says Dr. Chua. “No one can have 100-percent control, but at least, 80 percent.” Avoid excess.
“The focus should be on health, not weight,” says Dr. Biecenda Varona, nutrition and healthy lifestyle consultant. As a health educator, Dr. Varona notes the huge popularity of nutrition and diet books, based on the number of books on this subject on sale at popular bookstores. “People are looking for quick, effortless ways to lose weight, and some preach what people desperately want to hear,” she observes.
“We have the power to think; to choose intelligently. We need to feed our minds, before we can change our diet.” Many success stories, she notes, involve weight management programs where hope is incorporated in the program. Attention should also be given to our psychological as well as emotional health. “We are hardwired for a better life.”It is not a good weight management program if it fails to provide for weight maintenance after the program ends, Umali warns. “Any diet will work,” she says, “but its value lies in its ability to maintain weight loss and provide good health.”
By Julie Cabatit-Alegre
Updated August 05, 2008 12:00 AM
Obesity can cause serious health risks to a person’s life. Some cases cannot be simply solved by traditional treatments like diet/behavior modification as well as regular exercises. which were found to be effective to an estimated five percent of all the patients who participated in traditional weight loss programs. The remaining 90 percent, according to the US National Institute of Health, regain their weight in a year or so.
Patients who have constantly tried losing weight, moving from one diet to another, do nothing but subject themselves to what is called “yo-yo dieting.” the lose-gain weight cycle which can do more damage to a person’s health.
For most people suffering from obesity, considering weight loss or bariatric surgery is a smart and practical thing to do. According to Dr. Hildegardes Dineros, a leading bariatric surgeon, choosing to suffer obesity is much more costly in the long run because of the expenses for continuous medications, loss of work, and need for more clothes, among others.
“Bariatric surgeries would not only give convenience to the patient, it will also restore the patient’s health and well-being,” says Dr. Dineros.
Bariatic surgery, though, is not for everyone. A person should be wholly prepared and know some basic facts about bariatric surgery before going for one. Below are questions most patients ask before undergoing a weight loss surgery.
What are the kinds of weight loss or bariatric surgeries?
Restrictive procedure like gastric banding works by placing a low-pressure soft band at the uppermost part of the stomach, dividing the stomach in two. This produces an early feeling of fullness as the small pouch created at the uppermost part of the stomach gets filled with food easily, creating an immediate feeling of fullness during food intake.
A malabsorptive principle is added to restriction in a bariatric procedure like the gastric bypass which comprises transecting the upper part (small pouch) of the stomach and connecting it to the small intestine bypassing the bigger remaining stomach.
Why should I undergo weight loss surgery?
Weight loss surgery’s prime purpose is not to make a person look good; the aim is to restore the person’s health. Obesity is a health problem which occurs when a person weighs 20 percent more than his ideal body weight, making him prone to weight-related health risks. Obesity also comes with co-morbidities like high-cholesterol, heart failure, infertility, and Type 2 diabetes. Safely losing weight, through a weight loss surgery, can result in the resolution of these co-morbidities.
How do I know I if I am fit to undergo a weight loss surgery?
Simply wanting to undergo bariatric surgery is not reason enough. Before undergoing the surgery, a person needs to have routine tests such as full blood assessment to serve as the preliminary assessment, glucose tolerance test as diabetes is a common ailment for obese patients. Pulmonary tests, ultrasound, sleep studies, and gastro-intestinal evaluation might also be required to make sure that a person is capable of undergoing the procedure.
How do these tests determine my capacity to undergo the surgery?
These tests will provide precise health evaluation to make sure that a person is indeed fit for the procedure. For obese patients also suffering diabetes, measures must be observed to make sure that there is adequate control of the blood sugar. Comprehensive examination of the heart is also essential because surgeries increase risk for cardiac arrest.
How do I prepare for the surgery?
Looking at the big picture is important. Mental preparation is a good start.
Do I really need to undergo a bariatric surgery? What convenient changes will it make pre- and post-surgery?
Understanding the benefits and risks would help in the preparation. Talking to a person who underwent the same surgery would help.
Physical preparation consists of strict compliance to the doctor’s guidelines, which might include low-calorie diet routines, smoking cessation, and other medications the doctor might give.
When can I return to my usual routine?
Most weight loss surgeries are done laparoscopically, a minimal access technique which makes recovery fast. Most clinics do the surgeries on an outpatient basis. An example is the LivLite Bariatric (Obesity) Center at the MegaClinic in Megamall.
Patients can immediately walk and move around after the surgery. However, taking quality rest is always advisable to give the body time to completely recover. There are also measures done to control the pain after the surgery to speed up recovery and help avoid complications.
For more information, visit http://www.hope4obesity.com or call 732-0101 local 2209. You may also visit the LivLite Bariatric (Obesity) Center at the MegaClinic, 5/F Bldg. A of Megamall.
Updated October 28, 2008 12:00 AM