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Food to Fuel Your Workout

Exercising? Here's what -- and when ­ to eat

Choosing the Right Foods

Protein and fiber slow the absorption of food in your stomach. The action of these nutrients helps maintain a normal rise and fall in blood glucose and normal insulin response.

Insulin is produced in response to the amount of glucose in the blood; its role is to help get glucose into the cells. So when your blood-glucose level surges, insulin production increases, to help shuttle that extra glucose into the cells. And what goes up must come down. When your blood sugar falls, you feel hungry -- even if you just ate two hours earlier.

People who eat meals of refined carbohydrates (orange juice, plain bagel with jelly) without protein and/or fiber fall into a vicious cycle of eating more calories throughout the day. This roller-coaster ride of high and low blood sugar leaves them hungry -- and eating every few hours.

Some scientists believe that these rapid shifts in blood sugar and insulin cause your body to deposit more fat. Others say that it's not so much the blood sugar and insulin as the excess calories you consume. Whichever theory is correct, it's clear that simple carbs without fiber or protein are the wrong choice if you are trying to lose weight.

Let Your Stomach Be Your Guide

Sometimes we use the clock to dictate when we'll eat our next meal. A better system is to use your stomach to cue you when you're hungry. Getting in touch with hunger is one of the most effective weight-management tools. But this only works if we eat complex meals containing some protein and/or fiber.

Start by making sure that most meals and snacks contain lean protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, and/or small amounts of fat. This type of meal or snack will help slow down food absorption, help you feel satisfied, and provide fuel to energize your physical activities.

Consider dividing your eating plan into 5-6 small meals per day. More frequent, smaller meals and snacks will keep your energy level high and your hunger at bay. This approach will prevent ravenous hunger pangs and reduce the risk of overeating -- another weapon to add to your arsenal of weight-loss tricks.

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