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Ester Marsh: Stick with what works for you

When it comes to eating, it feels like a big black hole at times. With so many fads out there, it is hard to know what works and what doesn’t.

 On top of that, diet programs will tell you when and what to eat for the best results.

Honestly, most of the time when you are watching your calorie intake and exercise more, you will lose weight. It doesn’t matter how the calories came in; your weight is still calories in versus calories out. If you eat too many calories (even when they are healthy), you will gain weight. If you eat fewer calories than you need, you will lose weight.

Makes sense, right?

How about eating before you exercise to burn the most fat?

So many studies have been done to see if it is better to eat before or after exercise. One study says you burn 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.

A reputable study was done to compare differences in fat metabolism with people who ate breakfast and people who didn’t. The study 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 did not eat breakfast. But what 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 burns more fat. So the advice after the study is to eat a small meal before exercise.

I know some people have a hard time eating before their workout. My advice is to eat at least two hours before your workout if your breakfast or meal is more substantial. Light snacks can be eaten shortly before your workout.

Light or nonfat yogurts can really do the trick.

Just because you eat breakfast does not mean you can skip another meal, which I know can be very hard. If eating 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. I pack my lunchbox every day, and I have plenty of snacks and lunch with me. Most of my calories are eaten between breakfast, about 6 a.m. until about 2 p.m., with lunch being my main meal of the day.

I love having Juice Life next to the YMCA. I can get a healthy smoothie or a great bagel with homemade veggie cream cheese when I didn’t pack enough snacks or just plain wanted to have a Juice Life lunch that day.

Ultimately, you need to listen what works for you keeping the calorie intake and usage in check. Don’t get sucked up in that big black hole of diet fads and instead discover what works best for you.

Ester H. Marsh is health and fitness director of J.F. Hurley Family YMCA.

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