Engaging in regular physical fitness activities leads to a vast array of health and fitness benefits, including a more well sculpted physique, increased physical strength, a lower percentage of body fat, improved cardiovascular endurance and stamina, increased levels of mental concentration – the list is virtually endless.
However, exercise can have negative consequences as well. For example, some individuals feel that by regularly performing an exercise routine that they, in essence, have a license to ignore the basics associated with consuming a solid dietary intake regimen that is focused on nutritionally rich whole foods. In fact, in some case, they overestimate the calories burned during their workout, and overcompensate by eating rich, fatty, sugary foods that they’d normally avoid on rest days.
Exercise and Eating Myths You Should Know About
By understanding the reality behind some of the most common exercise and eating myths, you will be able to avoid the unfortunate situation of minimizing the health and fitness gains that achieve. Below are several myths related to exercise and diet that are simply untrue.
Exercise temporarily boosts your metabolism, so you can eat absolute junk right after a workout and the calories will just disappear.
Reality: It’s true that exercise results in an “afterburn effect,” in which your body burns some calories after you’ve finished a workout in order to return to its normal resting state. However, most people grossly overestimate the power of the afterburn effect.
According to Philip Clifford, physiology professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, a highly intense workout lasting 45 minutes will only result in about 100 calories worth of afterburn. That’s hardly enough to justify the consumption of anything more than a quick healthy snack such as a banana or a low-fat granola bar, things you should incorporate into the recovery phase of any intense workout anyways.
An excellent workout in the morning allows you to eat whatever you want for the rest of the day.
Reality: Your definition of an “excellent workout” may have you overestimating the actual number of calories you burned. The University of Ottawa conducted a study in which they asked participants to estimate how many calories they’d burned after briskly walking for a certain period of time. While they’d only burned around 200 calories each, their average estimate was closer to 825. As a result, they overindulged by an average of 350 calories later in the day.
If you’re simply guessing at how many calories you’ve burned in a given workout, you’re doing it wrong. Use a calorie calculator to determine exactly how many calories you’ve shed depending on the length and intensity of your workout, as well as the type of activity in which you engaged.
Indulging in junk food is acceptable after a good workout.
Reality: Let’s say you run approximately 4.5 miles in 40 minutes. For an individual in average physical shape, this will burn roughly 470 calories. Even though the workout will seem strenuous and probably leave you feeling heavily winded, you could easily negate the entire thing with a large latte or Frappucino, for example.
Try to get away from the notion that food, particularly fatty, sugary, indulgent food, is the most appropriate reward for a good workout. Spend your time and money on a non-food reward instead, such as a massage or a movie date for you and your significant other.
The last thing you eat before a workout will be the first thing you burn off once you start the workout, so indulge away.
Reality: This line of thinking has exercisers eating snack cakes, candy bars and pork rinds just before they step onto the elliptical. Although it’s reasonable to think that you’ll burn off these calories during your workout, it’s important to realize that you’re preemptively canceling out a portion of your efforts. What’s worse is the fact that eating certain types of foods actually prevents your body from burning as much fat as it ought to.
According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, women who consumed high-GI (glycemic index) foods such as sugary cereal, white bread and candy prior to a workout burned around 55% less fat than women who consumed low-GI foods such as whole grain products and yogurt. That’s because high-GI foods increase the level of insulin in your body, subsequently preventing you from burning fat. The take-away? Never eat sweets immediately before a workout.
You’ll burn more fat if your stomach is empty during a morning workout.
Reality: This is one of the long-standing eating myths that has no basis in reality, according to a study published in Strength and Conditioning Journal. Whether you eat or fast prior to a workout, your body will burn roughly the same amount of fat.
It’s true that you’ll lose more weight if you exercise on an empty stomach, though it’s far from the type of weight you’re trying to lose. By failing to eat before a workout, you’ll quickly burn up your stored reserves of glycogen (the glucose your body keeps around for energy), and your body will turn to your muscle tissue as its next source of fuel.
You should always eat while you exercise.
Reality: This is only true of exercise sessions performed for 90 minutes or more at a high level of intensity. Even in this case, however, you should only need a snack after the first hour of continuous exercise.
Depending primarily on your weight, you should be consuming between 100 and 250 calories worth of nutritious foods such as bananas and sports drinks every hour as your intense workout continues. If your workout lasts for less than an hour-and-a-half, you can safely save the snacks for your cool-down period.
Eating Myths: The Bottom Line
You may not be burning as many calories as you think, and a seemingly innocent post-workout indulgence can waste your entire exercise session. Although it’s important to eat before exercising, pay special attention to the types of foods you consume – foods like oatmeal and bananas are great choices, while white bread and candy bars are not. It’s acceptable to eat while you exercise, but only if the workout is especially long and intense.