If you’re exercising to boost body and mind, congrats! But, if you’re not refuelling right you could be undoing all your good work. Here are six reasons why you’re exercising but not getting into the shape you want to be.
- You’re not eating soon enough after working out
You’ll have used calories and your body wants to be refuelled after exercise, so eat soon– within around 30 minutes is best. This helps to keep your blood glucose (sugar) levels steady and prevent you from reaching for fatty sugary treats if you leave it for later and let yourself get too hungry.
- You’re choosing the wrong post workout fuel
When you exercise, tiny tears appear in the muscles you’re working out. When the tears are rebuilt, the muscle fibres are bigger. Protein is needed to build muscle so it’s important to have some protein containing foods. Protein is also a chemical appetite suppressant so it may help you avoid unhealthy food choices, too. Remember, as with any nutrient, if you overdo the protein, your body will only use what it needs and turn the excess into a storage material – i.e. fat.The carbohydrates help to ward off fatigue and if you’ve been exercising aerobically, you will have used up some of your body’s natural glucose store, glycogen so carbs help to replenish body stores. Whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits provide the kind of steady energy your body needs while helping protein to do its muscle-repairing job.
Options – toast with peanut butter or fruit with soy/ cow’s milk yoghurt, or a free range egg with toast, tomatoes, mushrooms or beans on toast.
- You’re not rehydrating right
Despite the fact that there are probably rows and rows of sports drinks in the chiller at your gym, they aren’t necessarily the right choice. You’ll need to have worked out for at least two hours before you need to replenish lost electrolytes (potassium and sodium) so water is usually the best choice. If you feel a little shaky, go for a small amount of fruit juice diluted with water and then have your protein-carb snack.
- You’re overestimating the calories you’ve burned
Most of us overestimate the calories burned during exercise. In other words, it’s difficult for regular people (as opposed to elite athletes) to out-exercise a bad diet. In one study, exercisers overestimated the amount of energy they burned by 150 claiming they’d burned around 400 calories when it was closer to 250[i].
- You’re underestimating the calories you’ve consumed
Most of us underestimate the calories in the foods and drinks we’ve consumed. And even professionals get it wrong. In one small study, 10 dietitians and 10 women of a similar weight and age completed a seven-day weight food intake record; the results showed that the professionals underestimated the daily food intake by an average of 223 calories and the non-dietitians underestimated to the tune of 429 calories equating to 81,395 and 156585 calories per year . And since it around 7000 calories are equivalent to a kilo, that’s a massive 11kg or 22kg on unaccounted for weight per year[ii].
- Your post-exercise boozing means your muscles are losing
Do you celebrate your sweaty workout with a beer? There are a few good reasons not to. One, it contains a lot of calories and since your body has evolved to rehydrate with water, it finds it very difficult to detect the calories in drinks (full fat lattés, smoothies and juices included). It’s also dehydrating – which isn’t great since a hard workout will mean you’ve already lost water via sweat. And, alcohol prevent your muscles from making protein ie repairing torn muscle fibres after a workout according to one 2014 study[iii] so you’re going to find it harder to get that lean svelte shape you’re after. Go for water when you can – you body was made to run on it. Cheers!
Written by Ravinder Lilly
[i] Energy expenditure during the group exercise course Bodypump in young healthy individuals. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2015 Jun;55(6):563-8. Accessed on 26 January 2016. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26205763
[ii]Energy intake and energy expenditure: a controlled study comparing dietitians and non-dietitians. J Am Diet Assoc. 2002 Oct;102(10):1428-32. Accessed on 26 January 2016. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12396160
[iii] Alcohol Ingestion Impairs Maximal Post-Exercise Rates of Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis following a Single Bout of Concurrent Training. Evelyn B. Parr, Donny M. Camera, José L. Areta, Louise M. Burke, Stuart M. Phillips, John A. Hawley, Vernon G. Coffey. PLOS One. Accessed on 26 January 2016. Available from: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0088384