Ask the Health Coach: Should I Eat Before a Morning Workout?

Hi Maura,

Here’s a question: My workouts are generally mid-morning. Not quite enough time beforehand for a substantial breakfast. What should I eat? And when?

~Michele

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Hi Michele,

Good question. I hear this a lot, especially since yogis are usually always advised to practice on an empty stomach. But that doesn’t work for everyone and doesn’t always apply to other fitness areas.

First of all, if you are diabetic or have blood-sugar imbalances, eat something. From there, my advice would differ depending on the workout. For a workout like gentle yoga or walking (something not so strenuous), a piece of fruit or yogurt should be sufficient. Then eat something heartier afterwards. If the workout is going to be more vigorous (like CrossFit or running), try to find something more substantial and easy to digest; breakfast quinoa or a high-protein smoothie (try adding chia seeds or tofu instead of a sugary protein powder) will provide good fuel and lasting energy. And you’ll want to eat about an hour before start time. (If you eat too close to your workout, you’ll feel sluggish or want to vomit because you’re body is using all its energy to digest your meal.)

Then post-workout (within 30 minutes of the end of your workout), if you don’t have a lot of time, refuel with some fruit with peanut butter or veggies with hummus to make sure your energy levels don’t crash. If you can eat a meal, try chicken and veggies or an omelet with avocado and greens.

For vigorous exercise, the post-workout meal is just as critical as the food you eat beforehand. It is crucial to both recovery and your ability to train consistently. Your body needs and will love a healthy combination of protein (for growth and repair) and carbs (to restore glycogen levels), with minimal fats. And don’t forget the importance of hydration. Super important. Drink up.

Enjoy the movement,
MM

Have a question for Maura? Email us, and your question could be answered in a future column! Find more of Maura’s advice here.

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Maura Manzo is a yoga teacher and health coach specializing in integrating diet, health and wellness. She supports others in becoming their best possible selves. Maura is available for private instruction and coaching, as well as on-site corporate classes and speaking engagements. She is co-creator of the Beyond Asana 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training and the Art of Letting Go: Maya Tulum Mexican Yoga Vacation. Learn more about her teaching schedule, coaching practice and yoga trainings at MauraManzo.com.

Ask the Health Coach: I’ve Plateaued. Help!

Dear Maura,

I’m a 34-year-old mom with two wonderful girls, an (almost) five-year-old and a two-year-old. I was never really athletic but after my second pregnancy (and topping 200 pounds!) I was inspired to start running. I started slowly and built up to about three miles. three times per week. I ran a few 5Ks and a five-mile race, and I’m currently training for the Broad Street Run.

At first, the benefits of running were very apparent and motivated me to continue. My legs toned and my weight dropped. I dropped 40 pounds in three months. Then, I continued running to maintain my weight, but I was never really happy with the way my body looked.

I am currently five-foot-seven-inches and 149 pounds. I am a healthy weight but I have some lose skin and fat near my lower belly, thick legs, and lower-back fat. I basically look great in clothes, but naked, ummm … that’s another story. After running 40 miles per month for over two years and watching my diet, I expected to be toned and tight. Out of frustration, I consulted with a plastic surgeon to ask about smart lipo. He told me I have some fat “pockets” in my lower abdomen, inner thighs, and lower back that will never disappear with diet and exercise. Is he correct? Will working out never get me the results I’m looking for? Is it impossible to lose fat from certain areas and not others?

I recently added an hour of yoga and an hour of Pilates per week to my workouts, and I’m watching my calorie intake. I am running three times per week for 30 to 50 minutes and cross training one to two times per week. Will I ever see results, or is plastic surgery really the only option?

I get frustrated seeing workouts in magazines suggesting that doing certain exercises three times a week for a certain amount of time will tone an area. Is it true that you can’t tone unless you get rid of the fat over the muscle?

~ Heidi

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Hi Heidi!

This question is marvelous, and one I’m sure many readers can relate to. The first thing I have to say is give yourself a high five for all the work you’re already doing. Secondly, thanks for asking hard, honest questions. I don’t imagine it was easy to articulate everything, but I really appreciate you taking the time to share with us.

To get you the best possible answers, I brought out the big guns and “phoned a friend” on this one. (Side note: Is Who Wants to Be a Millionaire on TV anymore?) I reached out to my fabulous colleague, Betty Levengood, a certified personal trainer and Pilates instructor at both Healthplex Sports Club in Springfield and RYAH Yoga and Health in Conshohocken. Here’s what she had to say:

What seems to be missing from your program, Heidi, is strength training, which would result in building muscle and toning up. You’ve done a great job losing the weight by adhering to a sound eating plan and incorporating great cardiovascular training to burn calories; however, strength training is every bit as important, if not more, in achieving your goal.

(Hi, it’s Maura again. Don’t worry, strength training doesn’t mean bulking up. Remember, building muscle burns more fat and helps raise your metabolism. Carry on …)

Genetics, age, and body composition are huge factors in how your weight is distributed. They also affect where it goes on your body when you gain, and where it comes off when you lose. Unfortunately, we have very little say in that process. We can’t spot reduce—when you burn calories, you can’t decide from where they will come! But before you get too discouraged, there’s hope.

I would incorporate—with the help of a knowledgeable personal trainer and taking any medical/orthopedic concerns into consideration—a multi-joint total body workout that is effective and efficient. (Multi-joint exercises are defined as movements in which your body must change the angles of more than one joint while performing the motion. For example, not just lifting dumbbells, but lifting dumbbells while moving from standing to sitting simultaneously). There are various formats you can follow, and many that can be done at home with little or no equipment. The key is to work hard and smart!

Believe it or not, I would also suggest cutting back on the cardio. Too much cardio can fall into the ‘law of diminishing returns’ effect. (You know, the whole “plateau” thing.) Give this new formula some time to do its thing—perhaps eight to 12 weeks—and you will see results. It may not be the exact picture you have in mind but you will definitely be more toned. In addition to being stronger and looking better, you will also have better posture, more energy, and be able to run around and keep up with those two girls of yours. Good luck!

One last note that I would like to add. It’s a big call to action for women everywhere: we need to put down the celebrity magazines and stop comparing ourselves to unrealistic ideals. Let’s start loving each other (and ourselves) for having bodies that come in all shapes and sizes. Get off the scale. Try connecting with how you feel over the course of those eight weeks instead of tying it to a number. I promise it will make a difference! And remember, Marilyn Monroe was a size 10. Beauty comes from within—so keep taking care of yourself, keep eating well, keep spending time with your family. Try Betty’s suggestions and let us know how it goes.

Best of luck! We’re rooting for you, girl!

MM & BL

Have a question for Maura? Email us, and your question could be answered in a future column! Find more of Maura’s advice here.

…………..

Maura Manzo is a yoga teacher and health coach specializing in integrating diet, health and wellness. She supports others in becoming their best possible selves. Maura is available for private instruction and coaching, as well as on-site corporate classes and speaking engagements. She is co-creator of the Beyond Asana 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training and the Art of Letting Go: Maya Tulum Mexican Yoga Vacation. Learn more about her teaching schedule, coaching practice and yoga trainings at www.mauramanzo.com.

Ask the Health Coach: Is Yoga a Good Cardio Workout?

Dear Maura,

I know you are a yoga teacher, so I’m hoping you can answer this for me because my husband and I argue about it all the time. Can you obtain an adequate cardio workout from hot yoga or non-hot vinyasa yoga? Is there a specific amount of time we should practice?

~ Jenn C.

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Ask the Health Coach: How Much Water Should I Drink?

Dear Maura,
Can you please tell me how much water I should be drinking? I’m confused. I’ve heard eight cups a day, but I’ve also read about the dangers of flooding your organs. And what about if I’m working out? Please help.

~ Marlena M.

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Hi Marlena,

I love your question! I get asked it all the time. Water is a staple of life and I think we can all benefit from drinking a little more of it. It’s such a simple thing to incorporate but a lot of people are confused. So I’ll share with you with what I’ve always been taught, from the nutrition school I attended to naturopathic doctors I’ve consulted with. Ready? You should drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day. Yup, that’s right! So if you weigh 120 pounds, you should be drinking 60 ounces of H₂O each and every day.

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Make: Pumpkin and Squash Chili

Brrr, its cold outside! This recipe is great for these brutal January days. It’s hearty and spicy, yet sweet at the same time. And it’s packed with protein and fiber to last you throughout the day. The key to this recipe’s sweetness is replacing half of the crushed tomatoes with pumpkin puree. It’s a great change up on an old classic. If you like it even sweeter, try adding even more roasted butternut squash. Enjoy!

Pumpkin and Squash Chili
Serves eight

1 pound Ground beef
1 can (16 oz) Black beans
1 can (16 oz) Kidney beans
3 cups Beef stock
1½ cans (15 oz) Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes
1½ cans (15 oz) Pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup Butternut squash, cubed
1 medium Yellow onion, diced
1 Red bell pepper, diced
1 Anaheim chili, diced
1/3 cup Fresh cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup Scallions, sliced
1 tbsp Fresh garlic, minced
1 tbsp Ground cumin
1 tbsp Dried oregano
1 tsp Chili powder
1 tsp Red pepper flakes (for heat—optional)
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

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Recap: Maura’s Seven-Day Cleanse Experiment

Mission accomplished! My one-week detox is complete: no alcohol, no caffeine, no processed sugar, no meat, no dairy and no wheat.

Last week I wrote about my decision to do a cleanse and promised that I would follow up with daily food logs and updates about how I’m feeling now; that’s what you’ll find here. (Buyer beware: Some of what’s below is brutally honest. Yes, I’m talking about bowel movements, people. That’s what cleansing’s all about, right?)

All in all, it was a great experience, and not as rough as some of the other detox programs I have done. The most interesting things I noticed where (1) I felt best when I ate the lightest and drank the most water, and (2) I was able to notice where I used food as a crutch because I was tired or stressed, which was a great reminder about how important rest and time-management really are when it comes to a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Without further ado, here’s a peek at what my week looked like.

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Holiday Cleanup Patrol: A Seven-Day Cleanse Experiment

Every good party is followed by a big clean up. It’s necessary; no one likes to do it, but it must be done. Same goes for us. The holidays were great but now it’s time to get back on track and clean up any little messes made along the way.

Let me say from the get-go: I don’t have any guilt from my indulgences over the holidays. I love the time of year, spending time with family and friends, and all the festive cocktail parties. And let’s be real, it’s nice to not worry about things for a bit and just enjoy yourself.

But two weeks later, I’m done. My body is feeling it: sluggish, bloated, and slightly constipated (that confession ought to help my dating life, right?!). I’m more tired than normal, have dark circles under my eyes; I’m just not my super-energetic self. So, it’s time to clean house. For me, that means a regimented seven-day cleansing and detoxification program. I can’t wait! Sounds fun, right?

Here’s the lineup.
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