Question: There are so many fat-burning products on the market. Are they helpful or harmful?
Answer: There are numerous products on the market that contain thermogenic ingredients, or what most of us call “fat burners.” Ephedrine, yohimbine, green tea extract, bitter orange (synephrine) and even caffeine are examples, and they basically work by stimulating the central nervous system. This increases your “fight or flight” responses, indirectly providing energy and allowing you to process calories at a faster rate. Along with these supposed benefits, there are also side effects associated with these ingredients, including higher blood pressure and heart and respiratory rate. Another potential issue is the fact that, individually, they don’t have a real dramatic effect. As a result, companies often combine several of these ingredients into one product and then sell it as an energy or health supplement. Unfortunately, we don’t know how any one of these stimulants will specifically affect you as an individual, let alone several combined. So despite the claims, your best bet is to pass on these ingredients and the products that contain them. Instead, focus on maximizing your training and nutrition and speak to a qualified professional about losing body fat in the safest, most effective way.
Question: What should I eat or drink if I only have an hour before a workout?
Answer: What to eat before you exercise should be largely determined by timing and personal preference. Generally speaking, a large meal takes four to five hours to digest, a smaller meal takes 2 to 3 hours, and a large snack takes 1 to 2 hours. If you don’t digest food well enough prior to an activity, you can end up with a stomachache and cramping. This often occurs because blood (which plays a key role in digestion) is shunted to your arms and legs during activity, thereby slowing digestion. Therefore, if you only have an hour to fuel yourself, it would probably be best to stick with a liquid carbohydrate/protein shake. Liquids are processed faster than solid foods and will provide the energy you need in a shorter timeframe. Keep in mind, we’re not talking about those ice cream-based shakes from fast-food restaurants. We’re talking about a sports nutrition shake that is designed for active individuals and athletes. If you want something lighter, a traditional sports drink would another option. There are a number of products on the market in each category, so do some taste-testing to see which ones work best for you.
Question: Do fad diets work?
Answer: In short, yes… and no. Most research shows that fad diets do work, and some of them do so quite well. The dictionary defines “diet” as a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly to reduce one’s weight, so if the latest fad diet doesn’t elicit some sort of weight loss, it clearly won’t survive out on the market for very long. The problem is that fad diets are short-term solutions to a long-term problem. They also tend to associate weight loss success with some gimmick when, in actuality, decreased calorie intake is usually the “real” reason for shedding the pounds. So fad diets are effective to a degree, but I don’t know too many people who like losing some weight, gaining it back and then jumping over to the next fad to start the process over again. The way to lose weight and keep it off is through persistent behavior modification and lifestyle change. If you can make this type of commitment, you’ll be able to leave the fad diet books on the store shelves where they belong.
David J Pohorence is the owner, manager and certified personal trainer at Anytime Fitness in Wesley Chapel. To submit a question for future columns, e-mail Pohorence at firstname.lastname@example.org.