Nutrition / Food

What Should I Eat (and Other Tough Food Questions)

You asked questions and our experts answered them.

There’s no denying that food and fitness go hand-in-hand. The effort you put into your workouts can be sabotaged by a diet lacking in proper nutrition.

To be consistent with an Aaptiv fitness routine, you must have enough energy to do your workouts. And this energy should come from food, not stimulants like coffee and energy drinks, explains Roger E. Adams, Ph.D., personal trainer, doctor of nutrition, and owner of eatrightfitness. “If you have enough calories to meet your basic needs, termed basal metabolic rate, plus enough calories to power your workouts, then you will make it through the day without any slumping, and if you do it right, food cravings,” he says.

It is true that it’s easier to eat an extra 500 calories a day than it is to burn it off, however, when your diet is consistent and comprised of mostly healthy foods, it’s a whole lot easier to maintain an efficient workout routine.

Here, fitness experts tackle some common food questions submitted by Aaptiv members.

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

There’s not a heaping amount of research to support the true benefits of a low-carb diet for runners. In fact, decades of research has supported the exact opposite: a high carbohydrate diet for runners. “We (humans) are simply very-well adapted to burning carbohydrates for energy and we extract energy rapidly and efficiently from carbs,” explains Suzanne Dixon,  M.S., R.D., registered dietitian. “For many runners, even with ‘fat burning adaptation’ from following a low-carbohydrate diet, the fatigue from not having adequate dietary carbohydrate intake can hinder workouts and lead to shorter, less intense running sessions. If you’re just simply too tired to run hard, you are unlikely to meet increasing fitness goals.” In the end, she says it really comes down to your goals and how your body reacts to carbohydrate restriction.

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

The best and most efficient way to lose weight or gain muscle is to eat filling, nutrient-dense foods. Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition and wellness expert, author of Eating in Color and creator of the FLR VIP program, recommends including a balance of healthy fat, fiber, whole grain carbs and protein at every meal and preferably every snack too. “This combination helps to keep you feeling satisfied and full so that you’re not reaching for less nutritious snacks between meals,” she says.

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

Dr. Adams recommends eating carbohydrates and protein after exercise. “Carbs are our primary fuel source for exercise, so making sure you have enough during the day as well as right before exercise is important to perform your best, and our bodies use protein to rebuild tissues and maintain a healthy immune system,” he says. “We have an increased uptake of protein after exercise, so it is a key time to have more protein.”

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

Pre-natal: While pregnancy is such an amazing time, Largeman-Roth points out that it can also leave you feeling exhausted and looking for extra energy in the form of simple carbs and sugar. Her number one suggestion is not to be too hard on yourself. “If you want the mac and cheese, have the mac and cheese, but of course, try to get your nutrients as well,” she says. “Due to nausea (when pregnant) and lack of time (post-partum) you’ll likely find that it’s easier to eat several smaller meals than to try to sit down to 3 large meals.”

Check out Aaptiv’s “Move Through Maternity” program, on our highly rated pregnancy workout app.

Post-Natal- For nursing moms, breastfeeding facilitates weight loss. But your nutrient intake is still important since what you eat goes right into your baby. To stay fueled, Largeman-Roth recommends overnight oats. “It doesn’t take much time to put several servings together, and it doesn’t require any cooking!” she says. “If you’re looking for something to get your morning started on a healthy note, blend up this Avocado Smoothie from my book, Eating in Color. It’s creamy and satisfying and boasts a ton of potassium, which breastfeeding moms need 5100mg of each day.”

“How do I avoid that 3 p.m. slump?”

While an afternoon slump is perfectly normal—and you should expect at least a slight one—there are some ways to combat it. The first is to 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. Slumps at this time of day may also be a result of lack of activity, according to Dr. Adams. “If we spend most of the day sitting, our body naturally stays in a conservative or energy-saving state, which will correspond with low energy, brain fog, and fatigue,” he says. “I tell all my clients to follow what I call the 6/60 rule: stand, walk, or move for six minutes every 60 minutes of your day to help improve circulation to the body, brain, and also alleviates fatigue.

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

While hormonal changes are common during this time and may lead to weight gain, choosing the most nutritious foods possible and avoiding the empty calories will most certainly help. “That means eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes and lean protein,” says Natalie Rizzo, RD, New York City-based registered dietitian. She recommends filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal, then adding 1/4 plate of protein and 1/4 plate of starch, like a whole grain or sweet potato. “That can be a bowl of oatmeal with fruit and nuts for breakfast, a big salad with protein for lunch, and a piece of fish with veggies and rice for dinner,” she says. “Stay away from processed junk and try to keep alcohol consumption to 1-2 times per week.”

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