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Ester Marsh: To eat or not to eat

To eat or not to eat — that is the question.

So many studies have been done to find out 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. Personally, I have to eat before I exercise. I can’t function let alone think when I don’t eat. And to top that off, I am not very pleasant to be around when I am hungry.

One of the latest studies compares the differences in fat metabolism with people who ate breakfast and people who didn’t. They also checked to see if it affected the oxygen consumption. 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 did not eat breakfast. But what was 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! It surely works for me. So the advice after the study is to eat a small meal before exercise. My advice it to eat at least 2 hours before your workout when your breakfast is more substantial. Light snacks can be eaten shortly before your workout. Light or non-fat yogurts can really do the trick. Just because you eat breakfast does not mean you can skip a meal which I know can be very hard. If smaller meals throughout the day works for you, watch 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.

These are my favorite meal snacks:

• Benton’s Breakfast biscuit. I use them as a snack — (230 calories)

• Activia yogurt (110 calories)

• Greek yogurt (150 calories) with ¼ cup of granola (110 calories)

• Bananas (medium, 105 calories)

• Grapes (one cup, 104 calories)

• Oranges (medium, 62 calories)

• Nature Valley roasted nut crunch (peanut butter, 190 calories)

• 1 cup of fresh cherry tomatoes (27 calories)

Most of my calories are eaten between breakfast (around 6  a.m.) until about 2 p.m., with lunch being my main meal. A light afternoon snack and dinner is typically all I eat after 2 p.m. Do I eat “forbidden” foods? Absolutely! But I don’t go crazy, I try to limit it to once a week. Healthy foods can be very tasty, you just need to research great recipes. One other huge part I believe helps is not to wait until you are hungry. I eat because I know my body needs the nourishment at that time. When I wait until I am hungry and I don’t have my planned meals in sight, I will eat almost anything! The majority of the time, I plan my food intake/meals for the day and I always eat breakfast whether I am hungry or not!

Ester H. Marsh Health and Fitness Director JF Hurley Family YMCA

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