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Secrets of a Personal Trainer: When is the Best Time to Eat?

As a personal trainer, I am often asked by my clients, When is the best time to eat?  Why is eating every 3-4 hours beneficial to me?  What if I can't eat dinner until late?  Do I risk gaining weight?  

Eating is essential to live - we must eat to live.  On the other hand, we do not have to live to eat which is what gets many of us into trouble.  Our bodies need good nutrition and it is our responsibility to make sure this happens.  There are no set times to eat, it is important to eat when you are hungry.  It is also important to eat in moderation and not overindulge.  As busy people with busy lives and schedules, it is almost impossible to be on a consistent eating schedule. Our body needs nutrition no matter if it's 7a.m. or 11 p.m.  

Following are some tips:

1. Eat every 3-4 hours, no more than 4 hours.  Eating every 3-4 hours helps to keep you blood sugar stabilized.  Stabilized blood sugar means you won't "crash."  When a person "crashes" they tend to overeat.  Stable blood sugar also moderates your metabolism and makes your body more efficient at burning calories.

2. Eat something 30 - 45 minutes before working out and within 45 minutes of exercise.  Your body needs fuel to burn fuel.  Eating something small (100-200 calories) before working out will give you the energy to sustain the workout as well as fueling your body.  Post workout, your muscles are screaming for glycogen - re-fuel your body within 45 minutes of working out (200-400 calories, 70% carbohydrates, 20% protein).  This helps with recovery and will make your future workouts more productive.

3. Try to consume protein, complex carbohydrates and "heart" healthy fats in each meal.  Including all the major nutrients will give your body the balance it needs to sustain energy and burn calories. 

4. Your meals should contain 400-600 calories each.  Your body can only digest 500-600 maximum at a time.  Unfortunately, when we overindulge - those excessive calories get stored as fat (even if they are good choices).  

What does this all mean?  If you follow these simple tips outlined above, it does not matter when you eat your meals and snacks.  Your body needs nutrition no matter what time of day it is.  If you are going to eat late at night make even better choices of lean meats and lots of vegetables.  

Generally, we are less active at night and therefore will burn off fewer calories.  This does not mean you should not eat.  This only means, take into consideration what you are eating.  It is important to be eating consistently throughout the day to ensure you don't overeat in the evening.  Many people will not eat breakfast, have a small lunch and feel famished by the evening.  Of course, this brings on cravings, overeating and overindulging which leads to excessive weight gain.  

Listen to your body; fuel it when it's hungry!

Angela Hattaway is a Nutritionist and Personal Trainer with over 15 years experience. She got her BS in Nutrition and Dietetics from Stephen F. Austin State University and she also has a Master's Degree in Business with an emphasis on Healthcare. Angela is experienced in working with both children and adults and loves working with clients to help them set realistic goals and expectations. She is passionate about nutrition and fitness and feels this comes through when she works with people. Angela loves giving clients the tools, motivation and encouragement they need to be successful throughout their lives. Visit her blog at blog.ultimatenutritionnfitness.com. She can be reached via email at at foodjunkie@nutritionnfitenss.com.

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