Nutrition / Food

What Should I Eat (and Other Tough Food Questions)

You asked questions and our experts answered them.

Food and fitness go hand-in-hand. The effort you put into your workouts can be completely undone by a bad diet. That said, nutrition is very personal. It can be confusing and time-consuming to find a solution that truly works for you. Nutritional science is not exact and you may need a nutrition coach to get a truly personalized eating plan but, Aaptiv trainer Meghan Takacs tackled some common food questions submitted by Aaptiv members recently when she sat down with nutritionist Nicole Gorman MS, RD.

Check out Gorman’s diet and nutrition tips below:

“Can and should runners go low-carb or do they need the extra fuel carbs provide?”

It depends on the carb! Simple, less wholesome carbs that are high in sugar including yogurt, white bread, or bananas, should be consumed 45-60 minutes before you run because they are not as rich in nutrients as whole grains, and are digested quickly.  You basically use this type of carb as fuel.

On the other hand, whole-grain carbs should be consumed post-run, since they help aid in the repair process our muscles undergo post-run. The more complex (healthy) the carb, the more constructively the body uses it.

Gorman says, “Runners should not go totally low-carb since glucose is the body’s preferred source of energy.”

“What is the best way to lose weight while running?”

The best and most efficient way to lose weight is to incorporate 2-3 days of strength training into your week and to make sure that you expend more calories than you consume. Some of you may have experienced a plateau in weight-loss, even during a running program.  And, in some cases, you may have actually gained weight while running.

Always remember the calories you consume should be of high nutritional value and should provide your muscles with the necessary carbs and proteins needed to recover. Recovery is a critical component of weight loss. It is important to make sure your body has the nutrients required to rebuild muscle fibers, because if you aren’t gaining lean muscle, you are not going to lose weight efficiently or quickly. Gaining lean muscle helps to eliminate body fat and muscles need recovery time to make those gains. Have rest days!

“Can you clarify what kinds of food (protein, carbs, fats) we should be eating before and after exercise and why that is?”

Gorman says, “You want to eat the quicker acting carb, like peanut butter on white bread, pretzels, or chocolate milk, right after exercise (within the hour) for quicker and more effective glycogen replenishment. This spikes insulin which helps take in glucose for glycogen formation. It also increases amino acid absorption to build muscle.

Similarly, for the long-run vs. sprint question (which kind of carbs do you eat before a long run and what kind of carbs do you consume for a sprint workout) Gorman clarifies, “for the long run day, eat the quicker absorbing carbs after for more rapid and effective glycogen replenishment. I wouldn’t skip on on carbs during the day, either. Meals throughout the day, before workouts, should include high-quality carbs. The meals or snacks immediately before/after the run should be quicker absorbing carbs.”

“What are some tips on nutrition for pre- and postnatal and nursing moms?”

Pre-natal: According to Gorman, “General diet variety is important because the more types of foods you eat, the greater chance you are going to be getting all your minerals and vitamins. Eat the rainbow.” Prenatal nutrition is all relative to the person. But in general, energy needs go up in the 2nd and 3rd trimester, so you should really listen to your body when it comes to what it’s asking for.

Post-Natal- For nursing moms, breastfeeding facilitates weight loss. “But it’s also important, while breastfeeding, to not restrict because you still need all the nutrients,” says Gorman.

Change up your foods and colors every day to keep your pallet confused and entertained. For women who are not breastfeeding, go back to your normal routine before you were pregnant, but make sure you break the habit of “eating for two,” which takes a ton of self-discipline.

“How do I avoid that 3 p.m. slump?”

Get enough sleep. When you don’t sleep enough you crave sugar, salt, and simple carbohydrates. This is because your hormone levels are not balanced when you are tired. Eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day, don’t skip breakfast, and have a snack before lunch. According to Gorman, “This will prevent too much hunger before your next meal and help you avoid dips in blood sugar that make you feel low energy. Avoid the post-work slump by bringing your gym clothes to the office and going straight from work to the gym.”

“What can I do for pre- and post-menopause weight gain?”

Gorman says, “I’d say to consult a health professional (doctor, nurse, dietitian, mental health professional, a combo of any of them). You should also make small changes each week to continuously improve, which makes big changes and increases activity over time. These changes could be anything from pushing a little harder at the gym, to just switching up your breakfast routine. In addition to this, continue to strength train to help gain lean muscle and get rid of body fat.”

Want to see more of Meghan’s interview with Nicole Gorman MS, RD? Head to Meghan’s blog.

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