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Can You Eat What You Want if You Work Out?
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Can You Eat What You Want if You Work Out?

Don't make the mistake of assuming you can eat whatever you want if you exercise on a regular basis. While it's true that you need calories to fuel your workout, overeating negates your calorie burn and can stall your progress. Combining a well-balanced diet with a consistent exercise routine is a healthy lifestyle choice that will serve you well for years to come.

Weight-Loss Basics
The bottom line when it comes to weight loss is to burn more calories than you consume. This means that topping off your workout with a huge plate of cheesy Mexican food is likely going to mean you're taking in more calories than you just worked off. For example, a 160-pound person burns about 400 calories hiking for one hour, according to Many restaurant meals contains double or more than that, so it's important to balance your meals with your workouts to ensure that you aren't hindering your weight-loss goals or producing unhealthy weight gain.

Fueling Your Workout
Your body relies on a healthy mix of nutrients for the energy to exercise as well as for promoting healthy muscle function and recovery. Eating the right foods before and after your workout helps keep calorie intake under control and optimizes the weight-loss and health benefits of exercise. The American Heart Association recommends carbohydrates, such as flavored yogurt or cereal, before a workout and a mix of carbs and protein afterward. Peanut butter on crackers or string cheese and an apple are simple and healthy options. Eating foods high in fat and calories can make you sluggish and uncomfortable, which can interfere with exercise.

Balancing Calories
It's easy to overestimate how many calories you burn during the average workout. After a 30-minute jog, you're probably sweaty and out of breath, which can make you think you just burned mega calories. The truth is that a 160-pound person burns about 300 calories after a half hour at a 5-mile-per-hour pace, according to Hit the local fast food place as a reward for your hard work, and you could consume up to 1,000 calories in one sitting and completely undo your workout. Keeping a food and exercise journal is an effective way to track your calorie intake versus your calorie burn so you know where you stand.

Health Status
Even if you can burn off your high-calorie food choices with exercise, it doesn't mean they're healthy. Foods high in fat, calories, salt and sugar contribute to a variety of health conditions, including heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes. "Shape" magazine suggests having your metabolic rate checked so you know exactly how many calories you need each day. Then, use that number to create a healthy meal plan made up of a variety of foods from each food group, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. This way, you're not getting more calories than you burn, but you are getting the nutrients you need to stay healthy and fuel your workouts.