A few posts ago I discussed an article in Nutrition Action (May 2011) titled "Under the Influence". On pg 5 of the article, the topic covered exercise and how exercise can influence what we eat.
I suppose that every individual (athlete or fitness enthusiast) has a love/hate relationship with food when it comes to eating for fuel. Because we all love a great sweat, a post-workout meal either complements the workout (specifically, restores muscle glycogen, encourages tissue repair/re-building, enhances immune system functioning) or the meal is seen as a "reward" thus often bringing on feelings of guilt and shame (specifically, due to improper timing/quantity of food/nutrients thus leading to shifts in hormones either during or after exercise and consequently, lending its way to overeating/overindulging).
I'd like to share the article topic with you as a way to get you thinking about how you view food and whether or not you eat to exercise or you exercise to eat. Which ever way you choose, we should eat to support hard workouts, in order to enhance athletic performance. Regardless if you are training for an Ironman, 5K or you enjoy a brisk walk on a daily basis (walking IS exercise!!!), a body that is forced to exercise/train but is undernourished is nothing more than a beautiful car with no gas to move it from destination to destination.
Think about it. You are not weighed at the finish line of a race/event in order to receive your finisher medal or t-shirt. While weight gains/loss has been shown to positively and negatively affect performance, there is a bigger picture to why you choose to exercise or train. Although weight is just a number, many people believe that a number on a scale defines oneself. Well, let me tell ya... "healthy" is a feeling that is indescribable. Keep that in mind when you are running, biking, and swimming miles around the person that is concerned about a 5 lb weight gain or not being able to eat "carbs" for the next few months. So while you are eating your balanced meal and developing a healthy relationship with food, be sure to tell your weight/food-obsessed friend that you "only" ran 6 miles today because it was an easy day. And then let him/her know that your dog joined you for most of it :)
But of course, always be kind to those who may be struggling with eating for fuel. For food is a sensitive topic and should be discussed with a trained/qualified professional who is experienced in motivational interviewing, counseling and understanding the human body and all that is capable of during exercise.
From Nutrition Action (May 2011, pg 5)
Q. How does exercise influence what we eat?
We found that exercise can have an opposite impact than we might expect.
In one study, we showed people normal ads for washers and dryers and such before a meal, or we showed them exercise ads. If people saw the exercise ads and they were reasonably active exercisers, the ads dramatically decreased how much they ate.
We think the ads bring to mind how much you have to do to work off a certain amount of calories. So it's a pretty dramatic reminder. The ads have much less impact if people aren't exercisers. so if you're a pretty good exerciser, it might be a pretty good idea before dinner to think about your next workout.
Q. Does the Exercise itself matter?
Yes. Every June we have consumer camp for anyone from anywhere in the country who's been involved in one of our studies. At one of these, we said "We're through for the day but dinner isn't ready yet so we're going to take a one-mile walk around Beebe Lake".
The students who set the pace told them that it was either an exercise walk or a scenic walk.
On the exercise walk, the students would say, "We're a quarter way through," or "We're halfway through, keep your heartbeat going, keep it high". On the scenic walk, the students would say, "Here's the stone bridge that was built in 1922," or "Look, there's an island and three kinds of birds live on the island.". And it was an easy walk but the same pace and distance in both cases.
When they got back, they were given dinner, and they ended up eating more calories if they had been on the exercise walk. And most of the increase was from dessert. The exercise group estimated that they had burned more calories, and they ended up eating more calories.
Q. They figured that they deserved a reward?
Can you afford 580 calories for a Venti White Chocolate Mocha and another 490 for a slice of Banana Walnut Bread after the gym?