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Ask the RD: Alison Ozgur

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July 1, 2012

Alison is a Registered Dietitian specializing in health and fitness nutrition. She has nearly twelve years of experience helping clients reach their nutrition and weight loss goals. Do you have a question for Alison? Email us at

Q. Summer is just around the corner, and Iíd like to take my fitness routine up a notch. What is a good nutrition plan to follow?
A. Itís essential to fuel your body with the right balance of plant-based nutrients for optimal endurance and performance. We all remember basic nutrition, so letís recall the three main categories of energy:

  • carbohydrates (the foundation of the sports diet)
  • protein (for muscle growth and repair)
  • fat (for flavor and satiety)

Fueling before Exercise
When your body is well fueled and hydrated, you will perform at your best. Pre-exercise foods that digest the easiest and fastest are high-carbohydrate. Pre-exercise carbohydrates not only fuel your muscles, but they help prevent low blood sugar. Aim for around 100 to 300 calories of carbohydrate-rich food before you exercise. Examples include: whole grain bread, cereal, fruits, vegetables, and plant-based yogurt. If you cannot tolerate solid food before exercise, try a kale and fruit smoothie. Avoid high fat foods, which slow down digestion and may feel too heavy. Remember to hydrate as well.

Post Exercise Re-fueling
Your goals for post exercise nutrition include:
  • Replacing depleted glycogen in the muscles
  • Adequate protein to repair muscle damage
  • Hydrate to restore lost fluid and electrolytes

Ideally, you should begin post exercise nutrition within 30 minutes of a hard workout. During this time frame, muscles are most receptive to glycogen uptake. You donít have to eat a lot of food. Aim for about 200 to 400 calories of carbohydrate-rich food along with about 10-15 grams of protein. If you are unable to tolerate solids, drink some chocolate soy milk or a plant-based protein shake. To restore your bodyís normal water balance, you should replace fluid losses as soon as possible. Remember the motto, ďDonít wait to hydrate.Ē Fluid replacement depends on the amount of sweat lost during the activity, e.g. a step aerobic class vs. running a marathon. Once youíre adequately hydrated, your urine will be a pale lemonade color.

Q. I heard that strength training helps with weight loss. Is this true?
A. Strength training is great for losing fat and maintaining weight. Why? Muscle burns fat. Build more muscle, burn more fat! Lifting weights also makes your bones stronger, increases your energy level, and tones your entire body.

If your goal is to burn fat, lose weight, and feel amazing, you absolutely must incorporate strength training as part of your fitness program. Each pound of fat on your body uses an average of 2-3 calories per day. Each pound of muscle on your body uses an average of 7-10 calories per day. Your body knows that it requires more calories to keep muscle than to keep fat (at least twice as many!). So when you eat fewer calories than you need (dieting), your body actually reduces the amount of muscle you have in order to lower your caloric requirements. Dieting destroys your metabolism by destroying muscle. If you lower your metabolism, it becomes harder and harder to lose fat. (And easier to get fat.)

How do I get started?
If you are looking for a plant-powered personal trainer, I have two awesome vegan men that I highly recommend. I have trained with both, and they get results! Portland: Ed Bauer, PlantFit Training Studio. Vancouver: Derrick deLay, NW Personal Training.

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