published Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Side Orders: Eat if you want to drop pounds

By now, most of you have made your New Year's resolutions and, for many, it has something to do with losing weight and getting in shape. Try Googling "top New Year's resolution" and the first few thousand results have something to do with weight loss.

But keep in mind: It's important to eat. That's right, you can't lose weight if you don't eat because your body will go into starvation mode and hold onto every calorie it can.

And exercising is as important as eating correctly if you want to drop the pounds. But there are certain foods that give you the boost you need before your workout, as well as help you transition into post-exercise mode afterward.

Registered dietitian Pamela Kelle, a.k.a. Chattanooga Food Coach, says people must eat in order to lose weight and keep it off.

"Often people decide to lose weight and just cut foods. They get fed up with their own behavior and wake up one day saying, 'That's it. I'm done.' And at that point, I see restriction behaviors and meal skipping or skimping."

If you go without food, "your body will begin to covet fat," Kelle continues. "Our bodies will compensate for poor or under-nutrition as long as possible, but then the side effects come into play, one of which is muscle wasting. We can live a long time without muscle, so the body will burn it for energy, but after it's gone, all that's left is a lack of energy, fatigue, food cravings and a real good chance the restriction diet will fail."

She says the least amount of calories one should consume is 1,200 per day, "and that is clearly not enough for anyone who is at all active."

In order to lose weight, dietitians agree that there needs to be a happy balance between calorie intake and exercise. "One has to make peace with food; see it as a personal responsibility to eat well enough to sustain life and provide the energy necessary for an active and healthy lifestyle," Kelle says.

So, once you've decided on a good diet, follow it with exercise. But keep eating right to get the most from your workouts.

Here are some suggested workout foods from fitness expert and registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner. The foods are "natural performance-enhancing foods to energize your fitness routine and speed up your recovery to feel great and get the results you want," she says.

Before your workout, eat:

• Bananas: For a steady, long-lasting supply of energy, eat a banana right before you hit the gym. It contains 25 grams of carbohydrates, your body's preferred fuel source for exercise. Bonus: You'll also get a good dose of potassium, a key electrolyte that's lost through sweat.

• Raisins: A new study shows that raisins work just as well as energy gels to fuel your muscles pre-exercise. Aim for 2 tablespoons, or about 35 raisins.

• Pomegranate juice: Healthy compounds in pomegranate juice called polyphenols may help decrease muscle soreness, a recent study found. Drink 4 to 8 ounces daily. Choose a product that is 100 percent juice.

• Green tea: This healthy brew contains catechins, substances that may increase fat burning during exercise, according to research. Drink 8 to 16 ounces of hot or iced tea before heading to your session.

After your workout, eat:

• A tuna sandwich: Your body's best exercise recovery combo is protein to repair muscles and carbs to replenish energy stores. Protein-rich tuna on whole-grain bread is the perfect post-workout pick-me-up. Bonus: The healthy omega-3 fats in tuna may also decrease muscle soreness. Try single serve, no-drain tuna pouches. Most are 100 calories or less.

• Yogurt: Dairy foods such as yogurt are naturally rich in protein and carbs. For extra credit, choose 2-percent yogurt containing conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which may accelerate fat burning. Try plain 2-percent yogurt and add a teaspoon of honey for sweetness.

• Tart cherries: A compound in tart cherries -- anthocyanin -- may reduce muscle soreness and inflammation. Aim for 1/2 to 1 cup of the unsweetened frozen fruit or 100-percent juice.

• A green smoothie: A new study shows that a healthy compound in leafy green vegetables helps muscles work more efficiently. In a blender, puree 1 cup of leafy greens such as spinach, 8 ounces of lowfat milk and 1/2 cup frozen berries to drink after vigorous exercise sessions.

And don't forget to drink plenty of water. Without proper hydration, you'll fatigue faster and increase your risk of injury. Aim to drink about 8 to 16 ounces during a 30-minute workout.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.

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