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Exercise and Fitness

Eat before or after cardiovascular work out?

04/04/2006

Question:

i am doing a lot of cardiovascular (mostly swimming) to get rid of a few pounds. My roommate and i had an argument - he says eating alittle before cardiovascular work out is better because then you burn off that food you just ate - which will help in losing weight. I said dont eat before because then the energy is coming from stored fat, and that will help lose weight better. Is either of us right? if not, when is the most effecient (in losing weight) time to do a cardio workout?

Answer:

Since your ultimate goal is to lose a few pounds, you must create a calorie deficit for the entire day.  This means that you must burn off more calories than you consume.  Swimming is an excellent form of physical activity, and something that can be maintained throughout life.  However, you must fuel your body properly, via food, so that you can perform at your best. 

The best foods to fuel your muscles are carbohydrates, either simple sugars (such as naturally occurring in fruits and juices) or complex carbohydrates (such as starchy foods, such as pasta, bread, rice, cereal, oatmeal, or grains).  These carbohydrates provide not only energy but also important vitamins and minerals.  Your muscles store only carbohydrates (not protein or fat) in a form of sugar called glycogen.  During hard exercise, your muscles burn this glycogen for energy.  When glycogen stores are depleted, you will feel exhausted.  Therefore, eating high carbohydrate foods (cereal, pancakes, bread, fruit, vegetables, pasta) on a daily basis can help you train harder.

Bottom line:  You must fuel your body throughout the day (eating 3 meals with healthy snacks between meals) in order to have the energy to properly fuel your body, and especially while performing physical activities.  Research clearly shows that exercise is the single best predictor of long term weight management.  So, keep up the good work with your swimming!! 

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Response by:

Carolyn   Nickol, RD, MEd Carolyn Nickol, RD, MEd
Director
Fitness Center at CARE\Crawley
University of Cincinnati