Diet Myths Busted
The Diet FItness Diva Newsletter Archives

Should I stretch before or after exercise? Can I stretch after warming up?

The best time to stretch is after a workout when the muscles are at their warmest and are the most flexible.

The newest studies on stretching show that it is best to stretch after your muscles are warmed up. If you aggressively stretch or overextend a muscle while it is still “cold,” you run the risk of pulling or injuring the muscle. Scientific studies have shown no evidence that pre-exercise stretching reduces injuries. Warming up the body is a different issue, because it increases blood flow to the muscles and makes the tendons more flexible. Most fitness classes now start with a warm up that involves non impact movement so the core and the extremities are well fueled with blood and oxygen. Then stretches can be introduced. As an option for warming up, try walking or bicycling to class. If you can’t do that, take the opportunity to climb a few flights of stairs to get the heart pumping. Find something that's simple and enjoyable, because it's far more likely to become a habit. Begin with at least five minutes of activity and increase it to 10 or 15 minutes; long enough to elevate the heart rate.

This begs the additional question of “what about yoga?” The need to warm-up prior to yoga class really depends on the yoga style and the instructor. Some yoga styles, like Bikram, are performed in heated rooms. This helps to loosen the muscles. In other yoga formats, the instructor may begin with more gentle poses as a warm up phase and gradually move into more advanced poses after the body has had the chance to properly prepare. If yoga is the only class you intend to do on a given day, it's a good idea to warm up before class.


I am currently training for a 1/2 marathon, but I also cross train by doing yoga and spinning once a week. I also have recently reintroduced swimming back into my routine. I weight train for 60 min just once a week. I have kept this routine for a few years. Is this sufficient weight training or should I add in another session during the week?

From your question your routine seems to look something like this:

Day 1 spin
Day 2 run
Day 3 swim
Day 4 run
Day 5 yoga
Day 6 run
Day 7 weight train

This basically breaks down to 5 days of cardio, and 2 days of non cardio (one day of yoga and one day of weight lifting).

There's really nothing wrong with this routine although I might advocate a
little more recovery. If you add one more day of weight training rather than
do cardio, you will build a little more muscle and burn a little less fat.

You say you have been doing this for years. The first thing I wonder when I
read that is are you reaching your fitness goals? Why would you want to do
more weight training? What are you going for?

As a marathon runner your primary interest should be to increase endurance.
You need to do this by alternating interval training with high intensity
sprints on some days and long, less, intense runs on other days. It would
be wise to consult with a personal trainer about what your goals are and how

to achieve them.


For a hard workout what do you suggest eating before that workout? Sometimes I have a lot of energy and sometimes I struggle to get through the entire class.

Before any workout it is important to have something to eat. Food is fuel to the body! Eating something an hour before workout is a good rule of thumb. If it is in the morning, have a balanced breakfast that includes good sources of carbohydrates (like from fruit or good bread), some lean protein maybe in the form of an egg or peanut butter, and some essential fat like that found in cheese or milk. Another option would be to have a protein shake using soy or whey protein, whole fruit, maybe an egg and either milk or water depending on your preference and taste. If the workout is in the evening and you are coming in from work, a quick bowl of cereal or an energy bar is fine. Just make sure that energy bar is not a candy bar! Also a protein shake is another good alternative. Generally you want to consume 300-400 calories so your body has a good source of energy to draw on. If you workout on an empty stomach, you may get lightheaded plus you may not have much energy so you will compensate by doing less. That’s not what you want out of your workout.

Whether or not you have energy for a class or workout also depends on being well rested. Not having the energy you normally expect means your body is saying “I need more down time.” If that is the case, listen! If you don’t, you run the risk of overtraining and experiencing burnout. For example, if you like to take cycle classes and it seems harder than normal, just go ahead and “soft” pedal that day. It doesn’t mean you are weak or losing anything. It means your body needs more recovery.


What's the deal with foods that are fat free, sugar free, and trans fat free?

There are many foods that claim to be free of fat or free of sugar or free of both. Fat and sugar give foods taste and texture. They also satisfy cravings. When taken out of foods, they are usually replaced with a substitute that is often a chemical that may taste like sugar or fat. These can give the food the same texture or taste but our bodies don’t process the chemical equivalent of the sugar or fat the same way and our cravings are not satisfied. This why after eating half a dozen sugar free/fat free cookies we still have cravings for a cookie! We get the calories but not the satisfaction. Fat and sugar free foods typically have a calorie count that is only a few calories lower than the real item but lack the better nutrition found in real food. Yogurts that are free of sugar and fat lose their healthy benefits because they contain more chemicals than full calorie naturally sweet versions.

Rather than eat foods that claim to be free of fat and sugar, try to eat foods that are whole, pure and contain REAL and healthy sources of fat. Try olive oil, salmon, avocadoes or nuts for good sources of healthy fat. Foods that are healthy and wholesome sources of sugar are whole fruits, or try a small amount of honey.

Trans fats are to be avoided. These are fats that don’t become rancid at room temperature after long periods of time. Foods that contain trans fats have a long shelf life. If they don’t break down on the store shelves, they also don’t break down very well in your body. Eating foods free of trans fats is a good idea. Remember, when something real is taken out, it is often replaced with artificial equivalents. How is that better for your body? It’s not.


What's up with diet pops? Are they good for you? Are diet pops better for you than full calorie pops?

Diet pops are made with artificial sweeteners. While they taste sweet, they don’t satisfy your body’s expectation of being satisfied with the calories that follow a sweet drink. When you drink a diet pop and tease your body with the expectation of sugar calories but then don’t deliver those calories, your body will develop craving again and seek out another source of sweetness. Studies consistently show that people who drink diet pop as part of their method of calorie control actually gain more weight than people who don’t drink diet pop. This is because diet pop drinkers justify consuming other sources of extra calories since they take in no calories with diet pop. Actually, their bodies are still demanding satisfaction - calories. Full calorie soda pop is a big source of empty calories. A regular 16 oz can of pop contains 210 calories of simple sugar that you generally can’t and won’t use so your body stores those calories as fat. Both diet and full calorie sodas also have a lot of acid in them which can cause dental problems on top of the weight problems. If you are interested in losing weight and you are thirsty, drink water.