Q+A: When is the best time to burn calories?
By Scott Fisher
Our experts answer real-life questions
Q I run and do strength training, and I’m trying to lose about 10 pounds. What is the best way to burn calories: working out before I eat (when I’m hungry) or after I eat?
A You’re definitely on the right track with your running and lifting, because exercise is crucial for a successful weight-loss programme. But the timing of your meals won’t change the number of calories you burn (for running, that’s about 100 calories per mile).
However, timing will affect how you feel and perform when you train. If you’re not properly fuelled going into a work-out, it can leave you feeling tired and shaky, and this will compromise the intensity and duration of your exercise. Whether that happens in the middle of a run or a weights work-out, it’s no fun, and it’s certainly going to compromise your weight-loss efforts.
To make sure that you have plenty of fuel in the tank, eat two to four hours before your work-outs. Include easily digested foods that are high in carbohydrates – such as pasta, cereal, yoghurt, and fruit and vegetables. To speed recovery, refuel immediately after your work-outs with more carbohydrate-rich foods, plus a bit of protein from foods such as lean beef, chicken or fish, and skimmed or soya milk.
For optimum weight loss, it’s also important to balance calorie intake with your physical activity level throughout the day. Eat more when you are more active, and less when you are less active. You should also try to avoid eating large evening meals and late-night snacks. Most importantly – keep exercising.
Your chosen method is a great programme and should bring you excellent results.
—Scott Fisher, running coach and sports nutritionist