Giving your body the right fuel

CanWest News Service
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It's not just about what you eat (or don't) - it's also about when

Quick: what contains more carbs, a cup of grapes or a slice of bread?

Yes, that was a trick question. The grapes contain 27 grams of carbohydrates, and the bread has only 23.

All carbohydrates are not equal.

"Within the category of carbohydrates, there are good, less good and downright bad choices," registered dietitian Patricia Chuey says.

Patricia Chuey, a Nanaimo dietitian, offers up a variety of quick and easy meal and snack ideas. - Canwest News Service photo

Quick: what contains more carbs, a cup of grapes or a slice of bread?

Yes, that was a trick question. The grapes contain 27 grams of carbohydrates, and the bread has only 23.

All carbohydrates are not equal.

"Within the category of carbohydrates, there are good, less good and downright bad choices," registered dietitian Patricia Chuey says.

Carbs in fruits and vegetables give you energy plus antioxidants. Carbs in whole grains give you energy plus a little protein - and perhaps some B vitamins or iron. Carbs in enriched white flour - well, you know the answer to that one.

"I like that people have clued in to the fact that vegetables and fruits are meaningful carbohydrates and that 'carbohydrate' is not a bad word," said Chuey, consultant to Sport-MedBC and the Vancouver Whitecaps, among others. "People used to think they just needed a bunch of pasta before a run. Equally good is to load up on vegetables and fruit."

How much?

"I don't think healthy eating involves math," Chuey said. "Have half of your plate as vegetables, one quarter whole grains and one quarter protein."

But the energy from carbs won't last long. "You can't run on carbs alone," Chuey said. "That's why you have to add some protein."

How much?

Everyone has different needs.

"If you and I are both going for a run one hour from now, you might choose to have a little container of yogurt," Chuey said. "Someone else might have an energy bar, and someone else might not have anything because it's only an hour (until the run)."

Stop eating an hour before training. You want your body working to fuel muscles, not digest food. If training starts at 9 a.m. and you're crawling out of bed at 8:15 a.m., have a bedtime snack the night before, half an apple before training and a proper meal afterward. If you'll be up at 6 or 7 a.m., on the other hand, you'll have time to digest a full breakfast.

After training, eat something within 30 to 60 minutes. This is when your muscles are most receptive to replenishment. Try fruit with yogurt, a bagel with peanut butter or any other combination of carbohydrates with a little protein.

What if you're trying to lose weight?

"You want the fire of your metabolism raging to burn fat, and for that, you need to throw the right kindling on it at even, consistent intervals throughout the day," she said. Eat every three or four hours; eat less than normal; make sure your plate is half vegetables, one quarter whole grain and one quarter protein; try calcium supplements; stop eating when you're full, not stuffed.

"That is a very fine line," Chuey said. "Sometimes two more mouthfuls of mashed potatoes can take you across that line."

As for calcium supplements, "It's completely unscientific," Chuey said, "but people who don't get enough calcium seem to have a sweet tooth and then they eat more of the wrong types of foods. Now people are going to go, 'That Patricia Chuey is a quack,' but hey, talk to me, I've seen it work."

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