OSF Saint Anthony hosted its first live Facebook Q & A session, during which OSF exercise and nutrition experts answered your burning questions about diet and exercise.
Our experts for this chat were Christy Eldridge, manager of OSF Outpatient Rehabilitation Services, and Nathan Hamman, registered/licensed dietitian at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center.
If you missed the Q & A, here is a recap:
1. I’ve been told that if you walk below your fat-burning heart rate, it’s actually better for you because you’re burning more fat than muscle, but I just dot know if that’s good advice. Walking slow seems counter-intuitive.
Christy: Any walking is good walking in my book. The exercise increases one’s metabolism, which in turn burns more calories.
2. So they say diet pop is bad for you because, even though there are no calories in it, the sweetness sends signals to your brain which make it crave something sweet. Can this also be said about Crystal Light and other products that we add to flavor our water?
Nathan: Yes, that would be correct. All of the artificial sweeteners would pass through the same taste receptors on your tongue and could potentially cause you to want other sweet foods later. If you want to flavor your water, you can use lemon or lime wedges to avoid the use of artificial sweeteners.
3. Is working out on a treadmill or an elliptical less stress on your joints?
Christy: For those who are looking to avoid excess stress on their joints, both the treadmill and elliptical pose less impact than other activities. Between the treadmill and the elliptical, the elliptical has less impact since one’s feet stay in constant contact with the deck surface. Please remember to cool down and stretch after your activity to keep your muscles flexible.
4. You hear everywhere that you should cut carbs. Well, fruit has carbs, so should we not eat fruit or just moderation?
Nathan: Low-carb diets can be effective for weight loss but are not a maintainable form of dieting for most people. Many Americans do eat more carbs than is necessary. However, I would not recommend eliminating either fruits or vegetables from your diet just because they have carbohydrates. Five to nine servings of fruits/vegetables is what you should aim for.
5. Arthritis is common in my family. Should I stop running even though I dearly love it to try to avoid arthritis?
Christy: Arthritis is inflammation of the joints. There are numerous reasons why one might develop arthritis. Even if one stops running, there is no promise that arthritis will stay at bay. As long as you aren’t experiencing any difficulty or pain, I would continue to run like the wind. If you have further concerns about how arthritis may affect you personally, bring it up with your medical provider.
6. So a friend of mine told me that it doesn’t matter what I eat as long as I “count my macros.” True or not true? What exactly does that mean, anyway?
Nathan: If by macros you mean macronutrients, that would be referring to carbohydrates, protein and fat. That is not completely accurate or inaccurate. For many people when they start the dieting process, we might only look at a few parts of their diet, like total calories or total carbohydrates or whatever would be most likely to have the biggest initial impact on their diet. For example, if you are trying to lose weight, total calories is the most important, but you can eat a low calorie diet and eat unhealthy and lose weight, but that would not be ideal. Or for diabetics, we focus on carbohydrate intake first, but as knowledge increases, we will focus on other nutrients as well.
7. Is it really necessary to warm up/cool down before/after exercising?
Christy: Personally, I have found easing into activity and cooling down afterward to be very helpful. How that happens can be individualized. Listen to how your body responds to activity. Each day is a new day, and your body may have different needs. Cooling down is important as one ages. Consider taking time to stretch and be proud of yourself at the end of your workout.
8. Is it true working out in the morning on an empty stomach burns more fat than working out in the late afternoon/evening when you have eaten throughout the day?
Nathan: Working out on an empty stomach would not be ideal; that being said, if you have not eaten in several hours, your glycogen stores will be somewhat depleted, which means your body will not have to burn through this first before using fat for energy. You also want to remember, though, that your body can also use muscle tissue as a source of energy if needed, and that would not be ideal. Also, if you have not eaten for a prolonged amount of time, it is more likely that your blood sugar could drop too low, which could lead to dizziness and possibly injury.
9. How bad are artificial sweeteners for you?
Nathan: That’s a difficult question to answer. All of the artificial sweeteners on the market today have been approved as safe by the FDA. That being said, more and more artificial sweeteners are being placed in foods, and we are consuming much more than just from our diet sodas. All of the artificial sweeteners are chemically different and are processed in different ways in the body for us to not be able to get calories from them (in other words, to make them zero calories). Also, the sweetener used in many foods (high fructose corn syrup) isn’t really a natural sugar like cane sugar or beet sugar. Overall, using more natural sources and drinking more water is best, but artificial sweeteners can be part of a healthy diet.
10. I’ve just started working with Nathan and learning a new way of eating and learning what’s good and what’s bad even though we already know truthfully, but please help me to understand why people frown upon me using sweeteners, and what would you recommend for exercise for someone who has children to get off to school in the morning, works a nine to five, then has to tend to these children again in the evening with homework, dinner, etc.? Any suggestions at all, or do I need to invest in some home exercise equipment?
Christy: Nathan answered a question about artificial sweeteners on this chat just a little while ago. Remember, this is a phase in life, and you won’t have little ones at home forever. Enjoy these moments and look to what you can do now, even with small people hovering about. The American Heart Association encourages cumulative exercise/activity throughout the day. Ideally, we are striving for 30 minutes of activity six to seven days a week. Activity at home can still be effective. When my children were younger, I used to hold them while doing squats and lunges. Push-ups, sit-ups and tricep dips are great exercises that can be done at home in between supervising homework and dinner dishes. See how many steps you can record in a day on a pedometer.
11. I am a nighttime eater and don’t know how to combat it. I can go all day and not be driven to eat, but at night it is like an addiction.
Nathan: Planning ahead would be the best bet. If you know you are going to be hungry at night, make sure you have plenty of healthy, quick, easy choices available to you and try to keep the junk food out of the house. You can also try to retrain you body to want food during the day by getting your self on a schedule of eating breakfast and lunch on a regular basis. Also, many people ignore hunger cues when they are busy, and then when the pace of the day slows down, you realize that you are hungry and should have possibly eaten sooner.
12. How long is it recommended to wait to retrain a muscle after a workout? Is there a particular type of food that is better to eat at night when you get hungry?
Nathan: It is recommended to to wait at least 24 hours before training a specific muscle group again because you have to give the muscle time to rest and repair. Foods with a high amount of fiber, such as fruits and vegetables, will fill you up quicker, and foods with some fat and protein will help to keep you full longer. So something like an apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter will have fiber, protein and heart-healthy fat.
13. I struggle with carb cravings, especially when I am training for a big race. Any tips for overcoming carb cravings?
Nathan: If you are training for a big race, you might need to be eating the carbohydrates to replenish what you are burning off while training. You just want to make sure you are choosing the right carbohydrates. Make sure you are picking whole grains like whole wheat pastas, brown rice, whole grain bread, fruits and vegetables. Try to avoid simple sugars like cakes, cookies and candies. Also, watch out for foods that say “made with whole grains.” It doesn’t mean that they are 100 percent whole grain, which is what you want.
14. Eating at 8 or 9 p.m. … Say I’m counting calories and I don’t get them all in during the day. I’m told its not good to eat past 7 p.m. Some say eat no matter what time [it is] since I’m not within [my] caloric intake. Which is it?
Nathan: It doesn’t really matter as to the time of day that you eat. The total calories that you eat throughout the day is the most important. You can eat later than 7 p.m. and be healthy, especially if you stay up late. In a perfect world, your calorie intake would be somewhat evenly distributed throughout the day. But if you are still hungry and you have calories left, go ahead and eat even if it is 8:30 at night. It will also help prevent you from waking up in the middle of the night hungry and going to the fridge and potentially eating something less-than-healthy compared to what you might have eaten earlier.