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New Year, New You: Eating and Exercising for Optimal Health

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December 29, 2013

By Alison Ozgur, RD

A successful weight loss plan allows you to eat, rather than diet or starve yourself. Long term weight loss begins with a healthful eating plan and motivation. The following tips will allow you to lose weight plus give you energy to exercise at your best. A safe weight loss goal is to lose 1-2 pounds per week.

Tips for Success:
1. Keep a food log each day (initially). Write down everything you eat and drink in a day, including amounts and time of meals. This will allow you to evaluate your meal patterns and eating habits. Your goal should be to eat more calories earlier in the day and less in the evening. This will also give you more energy to exercise and will prevent you from becoming too hungry.

2. Eat less and increase physical activity. In order to lose weight, you must create a calorie deficit. At the end of the day, you have to burn off more calories that you consumed. Although, severely cutting back on calories will slow down your metabolism and hinder safe weight loss. Check food labels for accurate portion sizes and calories. Measure/weigh your food.

3. Have a balanced eating plan. Divide your calories into five meals per day, eating every 3-4 hours. Start your day with a substantial breakfast to break the overnight fast and replenish glycogen stores.

4. Eat slowly. The brain needs 20 minutes to receive the signal that you have eaten until full, so pace yourself. The satiety signal does not move any faster, no matter how much you consume. Try putting down the fork between bites and chew slower.

5. Avoid emotional eating. If you are bored, tired, or stressed, focus on an alternate activity that is incompatible with eating such as, swimming, housework, shopping, sleeping, or taking a bath.

6. Visualize success and think positive. Begin each day with a positive thought and be proud of your new eating patterns and healthy lifestyle.

Often recreational exercisers and runners mistakenly follow a nutrition plan thatís too low in energy, with the thought that itís better to cut back on calories and not run the risk of gaining weight. Although, itís important to remember that your body requires energy (calories) in order to maintain muscle mass, enhance the immune system, and ensure proper growth.

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, pasta, grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy free yogurt. If you cannot tolerate solid food before exercise, try a fruit smoothie or liquid meal replacement. 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 grams of protein. If you are unable to tolerate solids, drink some chocolate soy milk or a vegan protein shake.

To restore your bodyís normal water balance, you should replace fluid losses as soon as possible. Remember the motto ďdonít wait to hydrateĒ. Fluid replacement depends on the amount of sweat lost during the activity, i.e. a step aerobics class vs. running a marathon. Once you are adequately hydrated, your urine will be a pale lemonade color.

Best of luck with your New Yearís health goals!

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