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Some Principles for When and What to Eat

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Picture Watermelon makes a great snack. Filling, low calorie, healthy and delicious.


* This is part of a year-long series called “52 Weeks to Eating better than Ever”. Click on the side bar for more information and to read the previous essays.
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Some Principles for When and What to Eat
 
Like many things with eating right, it’s all about combining various rules of thumb.  The ultimate question is always…….:
 
What is your number one priority?
 
If your priority is to run a marathon, or gain 10 pounds of muscle, or lose 20 pounds of fat, you are going to have very different strategies.  So, let’s run through some of these about when and and what to eat. Remember, the bolded title would be your number one priority.
 
Exercise for Fat Loss
If you are looking to lose some bodyfat, try fasting 2-16 hours before you exercise.  That way your body breaks down fat as an energy source.  You will feel a little lethargic, and won’t be able to work as hard, but you will also burn more fat.
 
Exercise or training for a sport or competition
Eat a meal 3-4 hours beforehand, and a light healthy snack of around 100-200 calories 30-45 minutes before. You need to eat to train hard, so don’t hold back much if you want to compete!
 
Night meals
Try not to eat right before bed, so that your food will digest better and you will be more likely to burn it off.  This is not a hard and proven fact by the research, but it makes sense not to eat a huge meal and then go to bed.  
 
Breakfast
Try to work out before breakfast or at least go for a walk if you can, to boost your metabolism.  
 
Meal spacing
Wait 3-6 hours between big meals, to give yourself time to digest your food.  Grab a snack if you get hungry in between.  
 
Lunch
It’s a good strategy to eat your largest meal in the middle of the day, that way you burn it off before bedtime.  
 
Eating after weight training to gain or maintain muscle
It’s always a good idea to eat a healthy meal after weight training.  Eat a full meal within an hour after weight training to recover.

Eating after cardio to burn fat
Wait at least an hour and up to 3-4 hours after a cardio workout, to utilize fat stores for recovery. 

Exercising on a fast for health
Sometimes, it’s good to not eat before or after.  Try exercising in the morning and then not eating until lunch or evening dinner. This will provide a jolt to your immune system, and you don’t need to do it very often, more than a couple times per month.  
 
Remember, there are no hard and fast rules, it’s all about prioritizing what you want to work on. And you can vary it day to day.  I use a mix of these depending on what I’m doing on a given day.  The key is to time your meals and plan your intake to reach your goals.  
 
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