While about on my daily routine whether in the gym or outdoors training, at the office working or shopping I have very sharp eyes. Sometimes I feel guilty about the thoughts that roll around in my head, but after all I am there to put a stop to it where I can and assist those that are in need.
Because as a sports nutritionist I monitor habits. I watch what people buy in grocery stores, I see what they eat in restaurants, how they fuel themselves during and after training sessions and I judge. It’s not their fault they live by emotion, habit and daily stresses. They think they are making the right choices but they just don’t have the knowledge to ensure those choices are healthy and correct. This is where I try to turn the tables a little on the unhealthy fast moving consumer goods industry and attempt to pass on a little knowledge so that they can make better and healthier decisions going forwards.
In today’s blog I wanted to place the focus on nutrient intake and timing around exercise. Let’s face it we all want to burn that fat. There is an expression that sweat is fat crying and I am not sure if that is the reason saunas and steam baths are so loaded these days but it could not be further from the truth. Granted exercise (not sweat) is a key piece of the puzzle to burning off body fat and losing weight but nutrition is the bigger piece of the puzzle.
So let us begin with some physiology and discuss a little endocrinology specifically blood glucose balance. The pancreas an organ which sits just behind the stomach is responsible for producing the hormone known as insulin. Insulin is there to regulate blood sugar in the body and so each time blood sugar rises more insulin is produced to unlock our cells and store it to be later utilized as source energy. But what if there is a major excess of blood sugar? Assuming your carbohydrate stores are completely topped up then its stored as fat cells or adipocytes (cells stored within adipose tissue = fat under the skin). This is now basically your fat fuel cells.
So in summary you have two major sources of fuel your carbohydrate (glycogen) stores and your fat stores.
The question is how do we burn the fat?
Image Credit: Dr Peter Attia
How is this done?
Do not consume any meal before or during exercise which will cause a rise in blood sugar an inhibit fat burn.
If you are training early in the morning and the session is under 90min opt for a fasted training session you have plenty of natural energy to fuel a session like that and place the focus on hydration. By hydration I do not mean a sugar laden drink, I am talking about water or a hydration solution which has no calories in it. I personally use 32Gi Hydrate for most of my sessions to ensure I keep in the fat burning state.
If your session is a long session around 3hrs or so then by all means take with a carbohydrate drink one that does not elevate blood sugar excessively and try to go the first hour or two without the carbohydrates to ensure you stay in a nice fat burn state and only start the carbohydrate fuelling slightly later on in the session.
If you want to benefit from an exercise point of view it is know that low intensity sessions burn a higher percentage of fat however higher intensity sessions also burn off large amount over time as well as elevating your metabolic rate for longer post session. I would suggest incorporating a combination of medium to high intensity sessions as a regular part of your burn that fat regime.
If you want to understand more about how the fuel tanks (carbohydrates and fat ) are utilized during exercise then click on my video Get in the Zone to gain some insight.
The final step to the key of burning fat is what about after your exercise session. This is now probably the most crucial factor to keeping the fat burn going. Remember if you want to burn the fat then keep the blood sugar and insulin levels controlled and lower. Your recovery meal needs to be relative to your training. If you did a nice 60-90min session and and then go and down a peanut butter bomb smoothie most likely you will have put an immediate stop to burning the fat just by elevating your blood sugar too much. I see a plenty of athletes munching a bowl of oats after exercise and they might not realise it but it could be the absolute worst recovery meal they are consuming based on their exercise session time and intensity. Keep those post exercise meals properly structured, smaller and spread them out to ensure proper insulin management to keep that fat burn going while your metabolic rate is still elevated.
Make sure you earned your carbohydrates because that’s all they are earned carbohydrates and if you treat them as such you can’t go wrong.
all the best