Live chat: eating to optimize your workout plan

Times Staff Writer

2007-08-16 15:59:36.0 Administrator2: Hello and welcome to the Health chat with Susan Bowerman and Jeannine Stein!

2007-08-16 16:00:06.0 FanLA: hello

2007-08-16 16:00:26.0 Administrator2: We'll begin in a moment, but feel free to submit your questions now! You'll see them appear in the chat window once we get started.

2007-08-16 16:02:18.0 Administrator2: Today's topic is "Eating to Optimize Your Workout".

2007-08-16 16:02:53.0 Jeannine Stein: Hi, Susan. I'll begin by making a confession. I usually work out in the mornings, and my typical before-workout snack is a protein bar and--yes--a Diet Coke. I'm sure there's something better I could be eating. Any suggestions?

2007-08-16 16:03:37.0 Susan Bowerman: Well, Jeannine, I can't say that your meal is the 'breakfast of champions'!. But, different people find that what works for them is not always the traditional fare....

2007-08-16 16:04:10.0 Susan Bowerman: It may be that for you, this is quick and easy, and the caffeine in the diet soda may actually be helping you a bit with your workout, although I'd prefer you get that caffeine lift from perhaps some tea or even coffee...

2007-08-16 16:05:12.0 Susan Bowerman: As far as the protein bar is concerned, if it also contains a little carbohydrate to 'top off your tank', then this isn't as bad as it sounds. Some people find that solid food just before a workout doesn't settle very well, but if this works for you, it's not the worst pre-workout meal I've heard of!

2007-08-16 16:06:28.0 Susan Bowerman: As far as a pre-workout meal is concerned, the primary thing is to get some carbohydrate to fuel working muscles and to keep your blood sugar from dropping too low during exercise...

2007-08-16 16:07:35.0 Susan Bowerman: This is most easily obtained from some fruit, bread, rice,pasta, cereals, etc. Usually you want to avoid foods that are high in fat and fiber, because they take too long to digest and might upset your stomach. Depending on how long a time will elapse between the meal and the activity, then you need to consider the composition of the meal...

2007-08-16 16:08:22.0 Susan Bowerman: For instance, if you are going to work out say, an hour later, you might do best with a liquid meal like a shake made with some nonfat milk and fruit. If you have 3-4 hours before an event or a bout of exercise, then you have plenty of time to digest a regular meal.

2007-08-16 16:08:28.0 FanLA: When should you stop eating? I've heard people say that they don't eat past 5 pm or 6 pm to increase weight loss. Is this good?

2007-08-16 16:09:11.0 Susan Bowerman: I love this question, because I hear it all the time. Logically, you'd think that if you eat late in the day and then don't burn it off, that somehow it will work against you - even more than if you ate the same calories earlier in the day....

2007-08-16 16:10:12.0 Susan Bowerman: In reality, the time that you eat foods doesn't matter. The reason people lose weight when they don't eat after, say, 6 PM, is because they had been consuming a lot of calories between 6 PM and bedtime. It isn't that they aren't eating later; it's that they ARENT EATING AT ALL....

2007-08-16 16:11:40.0 Jeannine Stein: You mentioned caffeine it OK to have a cup of coffee before a workout? Sometimes I find it helps give me a boost, especially if I exercise later in the day.

2007-08-16 16:12:48.0 Susan Bowerman: Yes, it's really not a problem. Caffeine intake in excess can be a problem for some people - if it makes you jittery or nervous, or keeps you up at night, then clearly it would be a good idea to cut back. But getting a little lift from it before you go workout is fine. There are several studies showing that modest amounts of caffeine can be a moderate performance-enhancer.

2007-08-16 16:13:33.0 mikew: Hi Susan. How about early workouts? I typically workout from 7a to 8a and then eat. But I've heard that you should eat within an hour of waking up? That's not really feasible with my workout schedule.

2007-08-16 16:15:55.0 Susan Bowerman: Hi Mike, If your current schedule works for you - that is, if you feel best exercising without any food in your stomach, and don't feel drained afterwards, then your current way of doing things might be all right for you. One thing you could try is a high carbohydrate snack at bedtime, which could top off your tank a little bit. A bowl of cereal with nonfat milk and fruit, or a smoothie might do the trick. The idea that you should eat within an hour of waking up is probably not a bad idea, but not necessarily a hard and fast rule.....

2007-08-16 16:17:08.0 Susan Bowerman: What you should also make sure to do, is to properly refuel after your activity, though. Since you are going into your exercise on an empty stomach, you should make sure to try to refuel within 30-45 minutes after you finish working out. Again, this should be a high carb, moderate protein meal. Cereal and milk, yogurt and fruit, toast and lowfat cheese would all be good choices.

2007-08-16 16:17:09.0 FanLA: Can you talk about vitamins and diet supplements? I've been eating healthier lately but have not felt energized. Should I consider vitamins?

2007-08-16 16:19:12.0 Susan Bowerman: Vitamin supplements, in and of themselves, won't make you feel 'peppy', although a lot of people expect them to. You require vitamins to help you metabolize and process your foods, so they are indirectly responsible for the energy - by helping to release energy stored in the foods that you eat. Having said that, if your diet is not well-balanced, then I see no reason not to take a daily multiple vitamin/mineral supplement as 'nutritional insurance'.

2007-08-16 16:19:28.0 Jeannine Stein: Some people who do a lot of strength training believe they should increase the amount of protein they eat. Do intense weight workouts require more protein in the diet?

2007-08-16 16:22:38.0 Susan Bowerman: If you are doing pretty intense strength training, then yes, a bit of additional protein would be appropriate. For most people who are doing lighter workouts a couple times a week as part of a regular program that also includes cardiovascular activity, then there's probably no need to push protein in the diet too heavily. However, protein is very satiating, and so having enough in the diet (or at least a little bit at each meal/snack) helps to keep hunger at bay. For athletes who do intense strength-training workouts, their protein requirements can go as high as 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight, but that would be at the extreme end. Protein is necessary to build and repair muscle tissue, but calories are also necessary, so a well-balanced diet for a strength training athlete would include plenty of protein along with healthy carbohydrates.

2007-08-16 16:22:43.0 mikew: One more for you Susan. I get the afternoon want to take a nap feeling which can really drag the day down and I don't consume caffine so I wondering what in my lunch might meking me sleepy. I usually don't have a large lunch but can you recommend things to avoid? Thanks very much

2007-08-16 16:24:08.0 Susan Bowerman: Mike, one thing that you might try is consuming a bit more protein at lunch. Proteins and carbohydrates affect brain chemistry differently. A high carbohydrate meal (think pasta with tomato sauce and some French bread) can raise serotonin levels in your brain - a neurotransmitter that cause you to feel more relaxed. Some people are very sensitive to this effect and it may make them tired....

2007-08-16 16:24:30.0 Susan Bowerman: On the other hand, a higher protein meal increases levels of dopamine in your brain, which actually helps to keep you more alert....

2007-08-16 16:25:21.0 Susan Bowerman: You might also look at the practical issues, like whether you are getting enough sleep at night, or if you have a sedentary job, you might need to get up, get some fresh air and stretch during the day.

2007-08-16 16:25:23.0 Jeannine Stein: Keeping hydrated is essential when working out, and I think most people are aware of this. But what should one drink before, during and after a workout? Is water enough, or are sports drinks better?

2007-08-16 16:26:50.0 Susan Bowerman: For most people who are exercising an hour or less, plain water is usually just fine. But, if you are exercising longer than that, or if the exercise is high intensity, or you are working out in a hot/humid environment, then sports drinks are better. It's not a problem to use them even if your workout is shorter - many people find that since they have a nice flavor, they are more inclined to drink and stay hydrated, which is, of course, a good thing....

2007-08-16 16:27:28.0 Susan Bowerman: If you are exercising a lot, you may actually have to make yourself drink on schedule, because once your thirst mechanism kicks in, you're probably already somewhat dehydrated. Sports drinks help you in a few ways:

2007-08-16 16:28:24.0 Susan Bowerman: First, they provide a little bit of carbohydrate - and it's recommended that you take in about 60 grams of carbohydrate an hour during exercise - sports drinks are perfect for this. Also, the drinks provide electrolytes like sodium and potassium that are lost through sweating, and so those ar replenished...

2007-08-16 16:28:47.0 Susan Bowerman: Also, sports drinks usually contain a few different carbohydrate sources which has been shown to enhance water absorption.

2007-08-16 16:28:52.0 Administrator2: I like the idea of PowerBars and the like-- quick, easy, no fuss, lots of vitamins and nutrients packed in there-- but I'm vegan and most of those products aren't. Is there anything else you can recommend before a workout? Will fruit alone give me enough energy?

2007-08-16 16:30:19.0 Susan Bowerman: My first choice for you, if you had a little bit of time, would be to prepare a shake with some soy milk, soy protein powder and fruit. It's easy to digest, gives you a lot of carbohydrate and is vegan. Fruit alone might work for you, but if it's close to workout time, you might do better with something a little easier to digest like a soy yogurt, or some applesauce and a piece of toast.

2007-08-16 16:30:34.0 Jeannine Stein: Susan, what is your take on sugar? Is eating something with sugar in it before a workout a bad idea? Will it cause a blood sugar crash later on?

2007-08-16 16:31:30.0 Susan Bowerman: A lot depends on the source of the sugar. But yes, something very sugary could cause cause actually cause a low blood sugar...

2007-08-16 16:31:55.0 Susan Bowerman: Here's how this works. If you eat something very sweet, your blood sugar rises and your body responds by secreting insulin to bring the blood sugar levels down...

2007-08-16 16:32:43.0 Susan Bowerman: if you start exercising when your insulin levels are high, the exercise is going to lower your blood sugar anyway, but now you also have extra insulin floating around that will lower it further. So, even though you'd think that a big slug of sugar before you work out might be a good thing, it could really rebound on you....

2007-08-16 16:33:16.0 Susan Bowerman: That's why we suggest carbohydrate with a bit lower glycemic index - that is, foods that don't cause quite so rapid a rise in blood sugar- before your work out.

2007-08-16 16:33:38.0 Jeannine Stein: On the rare occasion I get to the gym after work, I find I'm starving after my workout. In the time it takes me to get home, it's all I can do not to drive to In-N-Out Burger. Any recommendations on what to do to stave off hunger but not go overboard?

2007-08-16 16:34:55.0 Susan Bowerman: We've all been there, haven't we? This would be a great time to have a protein bar and piece of fruit in your gym bag. It's quick and easy, and the fruit will replenish your carbohydrate, fluid and potassium. The protein bar helps your muscles to recover after a workout....

2007-08-16 16:35:09.0 FanLA: Great question Jeannine! It happens to me too.

2007-08-16 16:35:31.0 Susan Bowerman: The other thing you could do would be to keep fruit, fruit juices or dried fruits to replenish carbohdydrates, and maybe a stick of string cheese for a dash of protein

2007-08-16 16:36:18.0 Jeannine Stein: Should pregnant women who are exercising regularly be adding anything special to their diets?

2007-08-16 16:38:48.0 Susan Bowerman: If a woman is maintaining her usual level activity during her pregnancy, then she probably doesn't need to do anything particularly special. Of course, calorie needs increase by about 300 per day during pregnancy, but those 300 calories should be from extra dairy products for calcium, and a bit more protein for iron and zinc; maybe a few more healthy carbs like fruits, veggies and whole grains. Starting an intense exercise program after becoming pregnancy is probably not a wise idea, but if women are considering it, they should discuss with their physician or obstetrician.

2007-08-16 16:38:52.0 MH: Is it true that you lose water when swimming? And does that water need to be replenished as if you were doing cardio outside of a pool?

2007-08-16 16:40:26.0 Susan Bowerman: yes, it is true. You will actually do some sweating when you are swimming, but obviously not as much as you would in a warmer, drier environment. One way to check on water loss is to weigh yourself before and after a workout. Every pound of weight you lose on the scale is about 3 cups of fluid. But, if you're a swimmer, this means you have to weigh yourself wet before you start swimming, and then again when you are finished.

2007-08-16 16:40:31.0 Jeannine Stein: If someone is exercise and trying to lose weight, how should they calculate the amount of calories they're consuming, so that they're losing weight at a good pace--not too quickly or slowly?

2007-08-16 16:41:50.0 Susan Bowerman: This will really vary from person to person. In order to lose a pound in a week's time, a person would need to consistently have a deficit of about 500 calories per day from the calories that are required for them to maintain their current weight...

2007-08-16 16:42:56.0 Susan Bowerman: So for example, if it takes you about 2000 calories to maintain your weight, then you would either need to eat only 1500 calories per day, or eat maybe 1750 calories per day and burn off another 250 calories through exercise. Determining how many calories you need to maintain your weight is tricky, and varies a lot because it really depends on body composition (how much fat, how much lean you have)....

2007-08-16 16:43:58.0 Susan Bowerman: Since many people don't know how much fat and lean they have, the rule of thumbe is that it takes about 10-12 calories per pound of body weight to maintain your weight if you are very sedentary. Probably closer to 15 per pound if you are somewhat active. So, if you weigh 200 pounds but you're a couch potato, you probably only need about 2000 calories to just stay where you are.

2007-08-16 16:44:00.0 MH: Fruits like grapes and pineapple - are they helpful or hurtful when dieting?

2007-08-16 16:46:33.0 Susan Bowerman: Many fruits have gotten misaligned because of the low-carbohdyrate craze. It distresses me when people cut out healthy fruits from their diets because they offer so many health benefits. All fruits are pretty much 100% carbohydrate calories, but these are the 'good' carbs, unlike the 'bad' carbs which would be sugar, white flour products and refined starchy foods. Fruits like grapes and pineapple offer vitamins, minerals, fluid, fiber and phytonutrients, and are perfectly appropriate. But, as with any foods, you need to watch portion sizes. Every grape is about 5 calories, so don't sit down with a giant bunch.... give yourself a serving of 15-20 grapes on a plate, and be done with them.

2007-08-16 16:48:09.0 Administrator2: We're going to wrap up in a moment, so post any last-minute questions now!

2007-08-16 16:48:12.0 Jeannine Stein: Most of us get more than enough salt in our diets, but is consuming extra salt necessary while doing very intense exercise, such as running or cycling ultra-long distances? If so, how would one calculate how much salt is needed?

2007-08-16 16:49:22.0 Susan Bowerman: It is true that most of us consume plenty of sodium in our diets. Interestingly, most of it doesn't come from the salt shaker - we get a lot of sodium from processed foods. If your diet doesn't contain a lot of processed foods, and if you don't add much salt to your food, it's possible that you may need to supplement....

2007-08-16 16:50:05.0 Susan Bowerman: Keep in mind that sports drinks and gels, which would certainly be used during endurance-type of exercise, would be supplying salt in appropriate amounts....

2007-08-16 16:51:07.0 Susan Bowerman: Generally speaking, your body only needs about 1500 mg of sodium per day, which is significantly less than the 4000 mg which is fairly typical.

2007-08-16 16:51:49.0 Susan Bowerman: During activity that lasts a very long time, say 4 hours or more, then sodium supplements might be indicated.

2007-08-16 16:51:50.0 JI: Hi Susan- How do you feel about soy for men?

2007-08-16 16:52:53.0 Susan Bowerman: Soy protein is an excellent source of vegetable protein - it's the only complete protein in the plant world. There is been some misunderstanding about the phytoestrogens in soy, and some men are concerned that it sounds as if soy contains female hormones....

2007-08-16 16:53:25.0 JI: Right, but maybe it's just the dairy industry sending out bad info!

2007-08-16 16:53:48.0 Susan Bowerman: Actually, these 'plant estrogens', as they are called, are safe for men; you will not become 'feminized' from using them.

2007-08-16 16:54:15.0 JI: haha, thanks. I hope not, my wife might not like that.

2007-08-16 16:54:39.0 Administrator2: Thanks for joining us in the chat, and thank YOU, Susan and Jeannine! A transcript will be available at later today.

2007-08-16 16:54:56.0 Susan Bowerman: Thanks to everyone. Catch you next time....Susan

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