Exercise is healthy, but as I tell my clients, it accounts for only about 20% of the equation of maintaining a healthy body weight and overall good health. The rest is diet, so it’s important not to overshadow the gains you make being active with the following mistakes:
I Exercised, Now I Binge
Let me disclose this – I once gained weight while training for a marathon. The hours of running made me super hungry, but there was also that little voice in my head telling me that I earned some extra food. Unfortunately for me, the apple fritters, donuts, and chocolates hanging around the nurse’s stations at the hospital where I was working at the time were far too tempting. I distinctly remember doing things like downing 2 donuts and an apple fritter within 10 minutes of each other and thinking how I’d earned it with that 20 mile run I had just done. I wasn’t smiling a few weeks later, when I ran the 26.2 miles with an extra 5 pounds on my 5’4 frame.
Studies have shown that most people grossly overestimate their caloric burn from exercise, and this fact coupled with the self-entitled feeling of having done some activity, is a danger zone. Eat smart, but don’t delude yourself into eating too much.
Drinking Sports Drinks Instead of Water
Hear this: if you aren’t doing endurance sports, say, for 90 minutes or more, you probably don’t need a sports drink. Studies have shown that water is just as effective at rehydrating casual (aka non-endurance) exercisers during and after their workouts. All you’re doing when you choose a sports drink you don’t really need, is taking in sugar and calories that aren’t being burned off. Drink water, have a snack or meal within 1 hour after your workout, and you’ll be good.
PS – your kids probably don’t need sports drinks either during house league sports, especially if they’re eating snacks between games (keep it healthy, okay?) and a meal when they get home.
Protein Powder Overload!
Ah protein powder. Once the domain of burly weightlifters with their cans of tuna, chicken breast, and protein shakes, protein powder is now mainstream. It definitely has its place – I recommend it a lot for those people who for certain reasons don’t get enough protein in their diet; for the rest of us, it’s additional calories and often sugar, that we don’t need. I met someone once who was taking whey protein every day because she heard it would help her lose weight. She was adding it to her diet in addition to everything else she was eating. Protein powder doesn’t have magical fat-burning qualities though, and her weight wasn’t budging because of those extra calories she was taking in.
Aim for a source of lean protein at every meal and snack. Foods such as 2% Greek yogurt, fish, meat, poultry, beans, and eggs are good choices. If you’re using cheese and nuts as protein sources, remember that their calories and fat add up really fast; by the time you have the recommended 25-30g of protein from cheese and nuts, you’re eating quite the calorie-bomb. I would choose these items to supplement other sources of lean proteins rather than using them as the sole source of protein in a meal.
Not Fueling Properly Before The Evening Workout
The jury is out about eating something before a morning workout, and it does come down to mostly a personal preference unless you’re doing a long strenuous session, in which case you should pre-fuel. The evening workout, however, tends to be under fueled by a lot of people for some reason. They eat lunch, and then head to the gym after work with nothing in their stomachs. What proceeds to happen after that is a poorly fueled workout and an all-out binge when they finally get home for dinner, or the one-two-punch of a high-calorie energy bar followed closely by dinner which is like eating two meals.
To keep your energy levels up, have a higher-carbohydrate snack an up to three hours before you’re active. This will also help keep your blood sugar level stable and lessen the chance of becoming a raving lunatic attacking everything in your fridge out of hunger when you get home. If you’re eating a meal within one hour of exercise, leave the high calorie energy bars in your bag and just eat your meal.
Total wellness is achieved by utilizing both good nutrition and activity. Fit both into your life!