2004-07-08 / Medical

Nutrition Q & A

American Institute for
Cancer Research
Nutrition Wise: Eating Before Exercising
American Institute for
Cancer Research
By Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
Nutrition Q & A

Nutrition Q & A

American Institute for

Cancer Research

Nutrition Wise: Eating Before Exercising

By Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN

American Institute for
Cancer Research

Q: How much will my blood cholesterol drop with a healthy diet?

A: With a diet low in saturated and trans fats, studies show about a 10 to 20 percent drop in LDL cholesterol (the bad kind). If you also include soy protein, more dietary fiber and sterol or stanol esters (available in special margarines and dressings) and control your weight, a 35 percent decline is possible. That’s almost as much as cholesterol-lowering medication produces. Unfortunately, researchers estimate that about 10 percent of the population is "diet resistant." Their bodies produce so much cholesterol that levels can’t be normalized through healthy eating. For most people who eat unhealthy foods, however, dietary changes will bring improvement in cholesterol levels. If you already eat somewhat healthy, further refinements may not cause the cholesterol drops noted above. But making any of these changes a permanent part of your lifestyle will help lower your risk of heart disease as well as your risk of cancer.

Q: Is it better to eat before exercising or playing sports rather than after?

A: The answer depends on how intense your activity will be and how much time there is beforehand. In general, sports nutrition experts recommend a light snack or meal two to four hours before exercise so you are adequately fueled to work out harder. Choose high carbohydrates, which are easily digested foods that are low in fat. Moderate amounts of lean protein may enhance endurance. If there is only a brief period before exercise, eating may leave you uncomfortably full or give you cramps. On the other hand, if you’re planning a brisk walk or other light exercise, even eating right before shouldn’t be a problem. But whatever the type of exercise, for your own comfort and better performance, drinking enough fluids is vital. Experts call for 14 to 22 ounces (about 2 to 3 cups) of cool water 2 hours before exercise, 6 to 12 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise and for every pound lost in sweat afterwards, 2 cups of cool water or lightly sweetened drinks.

Q: Is sea salt more healthy than regular table salt?

A: No. The two forms of salt are equally high in sodium, and sea salt offers no nutritional advantages over regular salt. If you’re looking for a lower-sodium form of salt, try some of the "lite" salts available in grocery stores. If you need to cut down on the total amount of salt in your diet, try cooking with herbs and spices - and cut down on processed foods.


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