It’s easy to “out-eat” a workout! If you’re aiming for weight loss, balance, moderation, and discipline in nutrition are the key. Learning these basic strategies will not only help you reach your weight loss goal but also maintain it long term. In this post from MyNutritioniQ, read more about how to fuel your workout and lose weight.
“How do I lose weight?” is a question many people ask themselves when they start a new or more intense exercise program. Whether it’s 50 pounds, a few inches or the last five pounds to fit into your old jeans, working out is a great way to help you tone up, get fit and drop the extra pounds. But, the reality is, it’s easy to “out-eat” a workout. Exercise often makes you hungrier and can cause people to take in more calories than what they need to lose weight, or better yet, convince them that they “deserve” extra calories for all the hard work at the gym.
While it is essential to fuel your workout, dialing in on the details of your nutrition, such as what you eat and when you eat it, can help you train hard, feel more satisfied throughout the day and still lose weight. Let’s go a little deeper!
How many calories do I need?
First things first, you need to know your caloric requirements to lose weight and still have energy. Reducing your calories down to as little as possible is a set-up for disaster from an exercise perspective, as you must have fuel to train! One idea is to use a food tracker or app and enter in your height, weight, age, gender, activity level and weight loss goal, and the app will calculate your daily calorie needs for you. This is a great place to start.
When should I eat?
The goal is to divide your calories up into small, frequent meals over the course of the day for a few reasons. Eating more often helps stabilize your blood sugar, which promotes consistent energy throughout the day. It also helps you feel less hungry at the next meal or snack, allowing you to manage your portions and ideally be satisfied with less food. Finally, frequent meals provide opportunities to get in a variety of food groups and nutrients over the course of the day.
When we talk about post-workout recovery nutrition, the goal is to eat a snack or meal within 45 minutes after exercise. Providing your body with protein and some carbohydrates after a workout will start the rebuilding process and boost recovery time.
What should I eat?
Your diet should consist of a variety of nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, dairy and healthy fat. Each meal and snack should have carbohydrates (whole grain or fruit) and lean protein (meat, chicken, fish, dairy, egg or plant protein like beans, nuts, and seeds), as this combination helps to stabilize blood sugar. Protein slows down digestion helping you get full faster and stay full longer, which is essential for weight loss. In addition, sprinkle healthy fats (nuts, seeds, nut butters, fatty fish, avocado, healthy oils) into your day and look to add veggies to any meal or snack for extra fiber.
Post-workout, the goal is to consume simple carbohydrates and approximately 20-30 grams of high-quality protein. Easy examples include a pre-made protein shake, homemade smoothie or a protein bar.
What if I feel hungry?
One of the biggest challenges of eating to lose weight is you will not always feel full. The calories needed for weight loss are less than that required to maintain your weight, so in that deficit, there could be some hunger. If you distribute your calories evenly over the day, you should feel more satisfied, but just know that a hunger twinge here and there might occur. Adding more veggies and water to your day can help fill the void!
Is there room to splurge?
Depriving yourself of foods you enjoy can lead to weight loss failure, as it sets you up to binge later. The goal of a healthy weight loss and exercise program is that you can do it long-term living a normal life, including birthday parties and happy hours. So, make your goal to live by the 80/20 Rule. Eighty percent of the time, focus on eating nutrient-rich foods and 20 percent of the time, leave yourself the option to splurge on foods you likely shouldn’t eat every day. When splurging, enjoy some of what you want, not everything you ever wanted. Balance, moderation, and discipline are what helps you reach your goal and maintain it long term.