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Ester Marsh column: To eat or not to eat — that is the question

So many people ask me if they should eat before or after their morning workout. Personally, I have to eat before I exercise. However, my mother is the opposite. She is the fitness queen in the Netherlands, and she does her workout each morning five to six days a week. She can’t eat before her workout but will have a big breakfast after she gets done. It works for her.

Over the years, study after study has been conducted to determine if it is better to eat before or after exercising. One study mentions it burns more fat when you don’t eat breakfast and another says the opposite. Without breakfast, I can’t function, let alone think when I don’t eat and I am not very pleasant to be around when I am hungry.

The latest study was done to compare differences in fat metabolism with those who ate breakfast and those who didn’t. They also checked to see if oxygen consumption was affected. Both groups did the same workout, which was a 36-minute run on the treadmill. The ones who ate breakfast had a lot better workout compared to the ones who didn’t. But was very interesting is that 12 hours after their workout, their VO2 was still higher in the group that ate breakfast and the respiratory-exchange ratio indicated more fat utilization. Even 24 hours after the exercise, the difference was still significant. So eating breakfast makes you perform better and burn more fat. So, the advice after the study is to eat a small meal before exercise.

My advice it to eat at least two hours before your workout when your breakfast is more substantial (a big breakfast). Light snacks can be eaten shortly before your workout. Or, if you are like my mother and your workouts are better on an empty stomach, as long as you eat right after your morning workout it might be the choice for you. However, light or non-fat yogurts can really do the trick to give you the energy needed and start your metabolism off right. If you are watching calories, smaller meals throughout the day can work for you. Check your calories closely so you don’t add a lot of extra calories to your diet.

When you are looking at which snacks to pick, watch the calories, sugar, fat, and sodium per serving. They can really sneak up on you.

Do I splurge? Yes, of course. But I don’t go crazy. I like to keep my forbidden foods for the weekend and still do it in moderation.

But one thing is for sure — a car will not run without gas and I won’t without my breakfast!

Ester H Marsh Associate Executive Director JF Hurley Family YMCA

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