MYTH: Never Eat Before a Workout

A big fitness myth that has been floating around forever is that working out on an empty stomach will help you burn more fat. It seems like everyone is spouting this myth, but the truth relies on science. Find out the facts!

The Truth: You should always eat something before exercising so your body has enough fuel to power through your workout.

The rationale behind this widely accepted myth is that forgoing food before exercise will force your body to burn more fat during your workout. This is a big, fat lie: Starving yourself before exercising can actually be detrimental to your body. Let’s get to the bottom of this fitness myth once and for all.

You need sugar to exert energy. Your body needs a certain amount of sugar for fuel when training. When that blood sugar is not there, your body will convert your own muscle tissue into energy. A study published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal looked at cyclists who ate before they trained versus those who fasted before they trained. The amount of fat burn was the same for both groups, but those who had trained without eating first had 10 percent of their calorie burn come from protein — including their own muscle mass. You’re trying to build muscle, not eat away at it!

Your body needs energy to perform at a high intensity. You know I’m always saying that I want you to work out as hard as you can for as long as you can. How can you do that if you haven’t properly fueled your body? Think about it this way: Would you drive a car without gas? Use your iPhone without charging it? Nope and nope. If you haven’t eaten anything, your workout won’t be as intense as if you’d fueled up beforehand, not to mention that you’ll likely suffer from low blood sugar, which will make you dizzy and sluggish.

You don’t need to gorge yourself; a healthy snack will do the trick. I suggest you eat something 45 minutes to an hour before training — you’ll have more energy and endurance to work harder, burn more calories, and improve your muscle tone. Aim for something with carbohydrates and protein. Here are a few quick, healthy snack ideas: a whey shake, low-fat yogurt with berries, or a banana or apple slices with natural almond butter.

The Bottom Line: You should always eat something before a workout. I’m not suggesting you pig out. A small, healthy snack consisting of carbohydrates and protein will properly fuel your body for a killer workout.

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MYTH: Carbs Are the Enemy

Think you can’t eat carbs AND lose weight? Think again. I’m breaking down this weight-loss myth once and for all!

The Truth: You CAN eat carbs — the “good” ones!

Yes, you read that right. You CAN eat carbs and still lose weight! I know that a lot of trendy diets (like Atkins and Paleo) have popped up over the years based on the principle that a high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet is the key to weight loss. I’m here to tell you that is completely false: You don’t have to banish carbs to lose weight. In fact, some may even aid in your weight-loss efforts. Think about it — fruits and vegetables have carbohydrates and they are a couple of the best food groups out there, right? The key is choosing the right carbs to consume. Here are a few other reasons why carbs are NOT the enemy.

Healthy carbs help you feel full. But muffins, cupcakes, french fries, white bread, white rice…? These are the evil carbs. These refined and processed carbohydrates have very little nutritional value and can definitely make you gain weight — which is why it’s about time you replaced them with a healthier version or just eliminated them altogether. Carbohydrates that are 100 percent whole grain and fiber rich help you feel full because they get absorbed slowly into your system and keep your blood sugar balanced. Other healthy carbs that fit the bill? Look to nonstarchy vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains like quinoa (which is technically a seed), oats, wild rice, or triticale (a wheat-rye hybrid).

Our bodies need carbs. Limiting carbs will never work long-term because our bodies crave and need them. Depriving yourself of a major food group is not a manageable weight-loss plan because it wreaks havoc on your metabolism. One study found that women who severely restricted their carbohydrates for three days ended up bingeing on carbs the fourth day — eating 44 percent more calories from carbohydrate foods than they had before they restricted their carb intake. You should have carbs, protein, and fat in every meal, striving for the healthy balance of 40 percent carbs, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat.

Carbs help to fight disease. People who eat three servings of whole grains a day are 30 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The right mix of healthy carbs is the best way to control your blood sugar and avoid diabetes. Carbs are also the vehicle for many of nature’s disease fighters, like phytochemicals. Without carbs, we’d be sitting ducks for cancer, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, chronic inflammation, and digestive problems.

The Bottom Line: Remember, while you should ditch white flour and white rice from your diet and cut back on refined and processed carbohydrates, it is a mistake to eliminate all carbs. Healthy carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. Enjoy!

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