Fitness Frenzy – Nutrition Plays a Factor, Too
Are you among the millions of Americans whose New Year’s resolution is to exercise more? Perhaps you signed up for a Zumba or Bikram yoga class, or are adding resistance training or high intensity interval work to your treadmill routine. Good! As a registered dietitian I love hearing that people are making lifestyle changes to improve their health. However, if your primary reason for exercising more is to lose weight, you also need to consider your diet. You may have heard that 25% of weight loss is achieved through exercise and the other 75% by your diet. Well, this is true!
Exercise + Nutrition = Better Results
You can lose weight by only exercising or by eating fewer calories over time; however, you will see better results if the two are done together! Unfortunately, when people are trying to lose weight, I often see them cutting out entire food groups from their diet, which can have adverse nutritional and health consequences. On the other hand, I also sometimes see people over-increasing calorie consumption after beginning a consistent exercise routine. Just because you are suddenly hitting the gym 5 days a week does not necessarily mean you need to consume more calories. Instead, focus on a healthy meal pattern that includes all five food groups.
You can also focus on adding in healthier foods and beverages. Typically, when you start exercising consistently, your body will crave the healthy options that help fuel your workouts and aid in recovery. Adding in healthier foods, while still occasionally including a small portion of the comfort foods that you love, may help you avoid becoming part of the 41% of Americans who do not stick to their resolutions for longer than a few weeks.
Below are some ways to add in healthier foods to fuel your new workout regimen:
1) Eat more fruits and vegetables as snacks – fruits and vegetables have many disease- fighting vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber to help you stay full, and water to keep you hydrated!
2) Increase your healthy fats – foods such as nuts, fish, avocados, and flax seed contain healthy fats which may help to decrease inflammation, depression, heart disease, and many other ailments. Aim to eat fish 2 times per week.
3) Eat more foods at home – try to decrease the number of meals eaten away from home and at fast food restaurants. When you are eating at home and making your own meals you have more control over what’s in your food and the portions you consume.
4) Consume low-fat/fat-free dairy foods to increase protein – dairy products, such as milk, Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese naturally contain high-quality protein that helps build muscle, recover from workouts, and increase your feeling of fullness.
Dairy and Exercise
Milk and dairy products provide many benefits for active bodies. Milk has actually been termed “nature’s sports drink” and for good reason!
- Low-fat and fat-free milk and flavored milk have carbohydrate and high-quality protein that will help fuel your workouts, as well as aid in faster recover.
- Milk has nine essential nutrients that are needed for normal body functions.
- Milk is about 87% water, so it can keep you hydrated before and rehydrated after your workouts.
- Low-fat chocolate milk’s 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein is the perfect combination to replenish tired muscles after a workout.
To reach optimal recovery you need to eat or drink something within 30 minutes after a workout. I typically reach for chocolate milk or a protein-packed smoothie, like a Chocolate Berry Banana Blast Smoothie.