If you read fitness magazines, you have probably heard of the “after-burn.”
After you exercise, you continue to burn more calories than you would if you had not exercised. This is because the body has to return to its normal temperature, heart rate, breathing, and hormones levels once your workout is complete. That takes energy – up to a few hundred calories – depending on the individual, the workout and the diet!
There are ways to maximize the benefit of after-burn – technically known as Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, or EPOC – including the types of foods you eat and when you eat them. Eat nutrient-dense foods that energize you, and eat within thirty minutes of finishing exercise. A pattern for a person who is going to the gym after work could be something like this:
- Eat breakfast, including a source of whole-grain, complex carbohydrate and lean protein. This might be a whole wheat English muffin with egg whites and a slice of low fat cheese.
- Have a mid morning snack such as a handful of almonds and a piece of fruit.
- Eat lunch from home, again, including carbohydrates and protein.
- Have a mid-afternoon snack with carbohydrates and protein. This might be a Greek yogurt with roasted pumpkin seeds.
- After a workout, munch on a granola bar that balances carbs and protein on the way home, or drink 8-12 oz low-fat chocolate milk as soon as you walk in the door.
- Fix a healthy dinner with plenty of vegetables, lean proteins, and one source of complex carbohydrate.
When it comes to exercise, the most important thing is to vary what you do and vary your intensity, so that your body doesn't become conditioned to any one workout and you can continue to burn calories. Remember to include strength training, as this encourages the use of fat as energy, increases lean tissue, and discourages the breakdown of muscle, as long as you are eating after exercise.