Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Beware...Excercise May Make You Gain Weight?

While this might sound counterintuitive, if not careful, exercise can actually make you gain weight. Don't let all those endless miles on the treadmill or those arduous heavy-weighted squats go to waste. Be mindful of the following traps that can damage almost any gym-goers physique.

  • Justifying junk: Picking up a complimentary doughnut as you pass by the break room on your way into work might not sound like a bad breakfast idea after having just completed sweaty morning workout. Hungry and readily available, it's easy for one to grab and quickly devour the sugar-&-fat loaded doughnut. However, this doughnut would cost you roughly 200-250 calories depending on the brand, and up to 15 grams of fat! According to Self magazine's fitness calculator, a 140 pound person who runs at a moderate pace (9mph) for 30 minutes will burn approximately 366 calories. Meaning, if you choose to indulge in that doughnut, over half the calories you burned from the treadmill will be instantly canceled out. And it's not just being ravenous after a workout that may cause you to needlessly indulge. Many people justify spoiling themselves with junk food or late night snacks as long as they stick to a regular workout schedule. While it's okay to treat yourself once in awhile, daily indulging on junk will completely destroy your gym efforts in terms of sculpting a toned body. While the boundless aisles of chips may seem admissable when you're consistently working out (especially when going grocery shopping on an empty stomach), its best to skip them all together and wait until a special occassion, such as dining-out for lunch, to satisfy your junk food cravings. This way, the chips/pretzels/etc. will be already portioned out for you, eliminating the temptation of overindulging.

  • Evil & Expendable Energy Bars/Drinks: Unless you are training for a triathalon, most likely you don't need to be consuming energy drinks or bars. Sports drinks tend to be high in sugar (or controversially cancer-causing artificial sugar) as well as other processed/artificial ingredients. It would be better to get electrolytes and a few pick-me-up calories from something wholesome, like a banana. Even worse are energy bars, which are often loaded with both processed ingredients and a ton of calories. Other than the added vitamins that they are enhanced with, energy bars are essentially the equivalent of a candy bar. In fact, some candy bars such as the ones that contain peanuts actually provide equally as much protein as many energy bars. Not to mention, energy bars often taste like chalk, allowing candy bars to by far outshine them in taste. Also, if you don't read the nutrition label you can often end up consuming a whole meals' worth of calories, just by eating one bar! Popular brands of energy bars such as PowerBar and Cliff typically contain between 270-300 calories per bar. While this isn't quite a meal's worth of calories, just eating one bar probably won't leave you satisfied. Most likely you'll reach for something else, adding even more calories to the stack. The Mayo Clinic says that most high impact aerobics only burn approx. 255 calories per 30 minutes...less than what's in the typical energy bar. So stick to guzzling pure H20 instead of those sugary, food-colored drinks. Refuel by eating my favorite, a banana topped with peanut butter, giving you a kick of protein, some natural electrolytes such as potassium, and a superior taste to that of any processed protein bar.
  • Hungry as a Hippo: Many people hit the gym without having eaten anything, such as times immediately prior to meals. For many people, the prime times to head to the gym are either in the morning right before breakfast, or in the evening right after a long day of work/class. Often having not eaten anything for hours, people find themselves leaving the gym starving, or their stomach growling an hour or so later. This might not only leave you feeling justified in swinging by Burger King on your way home, but you may find yourself downing not only those greasy chicken nuggets, but a large french fry as well. And even if you have good self-control and consider yourself a non-fastfood junkie, you're more likely to overeat at your next meal, or reach for an unhealthy snack in between then. There's no doubt that exercise stimulates the appetite. It also burns calories, requiring food to refuel the body. However, just how many calories exercise actually burns is often overlooked. Many people assume that after a hard workout, they've burned enough calories that they can eat just about anything. This is not true. While you should consume foods containing both protein and carbs as well some healthy fats post working out, you don't necessarily need to up your intake. Drastically increasing your portion sizing will leave you looking like you never even go to the gym at all. If you're looking to maintain a steady number on the scale or to lose a few pounds, keep your portion sizes consistent, whether you've worked out that day or not. A typical hour workout will burn anywhere from 150-550 calories, depending on the intensity. In terms of food, this is not that much considering eating something healthy and low-cal like a bowl of oatmeal and an apple adds up to 200 calories in itself. For the normal gym-goer, meals don't need to be supersized and if your appetite feels like it is. To help avoid a huge spike in appetite after working out, reach for a snack an hour or two before hitting the gym. AOL Health recommends choosing a food that contains both protein and complex carbs. Try whole wheat crackers spread with a tablespoon of almond butter.
While if not mindful, exercise may lead to weight gain. However, there's no doubt that exercise is extremely beneficial and one of the key ways to actually lose weight. Just be aware that exercising can set traps that can actually cause the numbers on the scale to go up. Stick with a healthy diet, while letting yourself occasionally indulge in a treat. Don't use going to the gym as an excuse to eat a huge bowl of ice cream. Instead of connecting treats as being a reward, make them be an arbitrary moment of indulgence just because life is good. Allow yourself to take time to savor the taste and be in pure contentment. I also wouldn't let energy bars or drinks be your treat, for the simple fact that they just don't taste good. And don't think that they are actually a health food, because quite frankly they're not. Lastly, stick to moderate portion sizes and use healthy pick-me-up snacks to curb your appetite. Before downing a whole meal, eat something small and allow time to digest. Notice how you may feel a little less ravenous, and always stay in tune with your body allowing it be the guide in telling you if you really are hungry.

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