Eating for Training and Non-Training Days, How Much Exercise is too Much, and More Answers to YOUR Questions [Listener Q&A Episode]
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In today’s episode, I’m answering YOUR questions. The questions I address include:
- How to adjust portions on training and non-training days?
- How much is “too much” when it comes to exercise during a diet?
- How to navigate feeling hungry when working out first thing in the morning.
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Episode Key Highlights:
- Learn the simple, tiny strategy to implement when training first thing in the morning to help better prevent afternoon and evening hunger pangs and cravings.
- Understand how you can’t choose wrong when determining how to differentiate between training day and non-training day nutrition (unless you make this one mistake).
- Discover why the principle of “less is more” is essential to follow when determining how much to exercise during a diet.
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How do I adjust my portions on training and non-training days? I love this question for many reasons, but specifically because as I alluded to moments ago, this is something I’ve actually changed my stance on over the past few years.
Hey, I’m registered dietician Paul Salter, and you are listening to Screw the Scale Radio. If you’ve been losing and regaining the same 20 pounds and struggling to have a positive relationship with food, and a loving relationship with yourself, you’re in the right place.
Ready to get out of your own way and truly feel and look your best? Buckle up as I dive deep beyond the nutritional Xs and Os to teach you how to build massive amounts of self-confidence, self-love and self-trust. So that you can not only lose the weight you desire and keep it off for good, but truly feel your best.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to another episode of Screw the Scale Radio. Thank you so much for tuning in, and thank you so much for being a listener.
Whether it’s your first episode or you’ve been a longtime listener dating back, believe it or not, to 2018. I am incredibly grateful for you, grateful you’re here, because today’s episode is a result of you continuing to listen.
Today’s episode is focused on a few common questions I received when asking what questions you would like me to further discuss and explain, dive into my answer and point of view here on a future Q&A podcast. So today’s episode is brought to you by you, the dear listener of the show. Thank you so much for listening.
And I’m excited, we’ve got some really good questions here. Some topics I think that definitely warrant some explanation. And some topics that, admittedly, I have changed my point of view on ever since I began coaching. Which believe it or not, dates back to 2010.
Really, really weird to say this out loud and to reflect on all that has changed, all that has evolved. How I have grown, changed, and evolved since that time. Really, really neat. Believe it or not, I had a business back then. I called it Empowered Nutrition and Training. I did a lot of nutrition coaching of course back then, but also a lot of personal training as well, putting together individual exercise plans. Something I enjoyed, but nutrition kind of took over and here we are a decade-plus later.
And the nutritional Xs and Os are something that I’m passionate about. But more than that is really understanding how to help people get out of their own way, tackling it from a behavioral, and emotional, and psychological standpoint. Because when we can do that, we become literally limitless, rich in confidence, belief, and trust with an abundance of self-love.
And that’s what truly allows us to feel, look, and be our best, show up as our best, and shine our brightest. Now quick reminder before I dive into your questions today is, we’ve put together a free Facebook group.
If you are a woman who is sick of always hopping from one diet the next, you have just chronic psychological diet burnout, you’re sick of always thinking about your next diet, letting food have control and influence your decisions and take hold of your schedule and emotions. Hey, this might be a great place for you.
Every single week I host a live training on a topic that is designed to get you thinking differently, and designed to equip you with a new tool to add to your tool belt to help you feel, look, and be the next best version of yourself.
You’ll be surrounded by other like-minded women who can relate to your challenges, whether those challenges be with weight loss, weight maintenance, body image, your relationship with food, or anything related. And it’s a great place to just kind of get away from some of the nonsense negativity in your Facebook feed, and plug into something positive that will help you feel better.
So I’ll drop the link in the show notes. I invite you to join. It’s absolutely free, and I look forward to seeing you on one of our live Tuesday trainings. Okay, let’s dive into today’s episode. The first question I want to begin with, great question. Thank you, thank you, for those of you who asked this question, is the following: how do I adjust my portions on training and non-training days?
I love this question for many reasons, but specifically because as I alluded to moments ago, this is something I’ve actually changed by stance on over the past few years. If you had asked me this question, let’s say three or four years ago, I would’ve told you that there needed to be a distinct, significant difference between the number of carbohydrates you ate on a training day and the number of carbohydrates you ate on a non-training day.
Protein and vegetables are not going to look any different day to day, carbohydrates would look drastically different and fat would look a little bit different. And here’s why. My thought process back then, and likely your thought process too, is on the days that I exercise, I am burning significantly more calories, therefore I need to eat more compared to a non-training day.
So far so good. We also know that carbohydrates are our muscles’ primary fuel source. Therefore, if I’m working my muscles to a significant degree more compared to an off day, I need a significant number of carbohydrates, more to compensate for the fact that I’m burning more during that day.
Makes sense? So as an arbitrary example, let’s say that you are completing a 40 to 50 minute CrossFit workout. Your total carbohydrate goal for the day may be 140 grams. Let’s say you are five foot eight, you are 180 pounds, and that’s where we have put your carbohydrate number.
Well, on an off day we might drop that number as low as a hundred, as low as even 90 grams of carbohydrates per-day. And let me take a step back and just be really clear. There are 1,000,001 different individual nuances that would help me arrive at your unique carbohydrate goals, and your unique difference between a training and a non-training day. But we’re going to ride forward with this example for the sake of simplicity and ease of digestibility.
So in that example, 180 pound person, 40 to 50 minute CrossFit workout, 140 grams on a training day, a hundred or maybe even 90 grams of carbohydrates on a non-training day. Fat might be, let’s say 50 grams of fat on a training day. And we might bump that up to 60 or 65 on a non-training day. And that slight increase in fat is meant to just help make sure that you remain well satiated throughout the day.
Now, if we broke this down and compared calories to calories on training versus non-training days, based on a reduction in carbs on the non-training days and a slight increase in fat, fat is twice as calorie-dense as carbohydrates. One gram of carbs provides four calories, One gram of fat actually provides nine calories.
We would find the calories might be relatively similar between the two. But the reason for the reduction in carbohydrates is because you are simply expending less energy. We don’t need to be overly stuffed, in a gross simplification, on carbohydrates on the days we’re not moving nearly as much.
However, this approach, it works really, really well. I’ll be candid, I followed it myself for the longest time, recommended it and utilized it with the utmost success for thousands of individuals and one-on-one coaching. But as I mentioned, I’ve changed my tune.
I’ve started filtering all of my decisions, all of our decisions for those I work with through the lens of sustainability. Which I’m a firm believer, has a quick three ingredient recipe.
To make sure that your foundational eating habits are sustainable they’ve got to be unique, they’ve got to be simple, they’ve got to be flexible. And I really want to key in here on the simplicity ingredient.
Because ultimately if you’re training, let’s say you have a goal of training four times per-week, but sometimes it’s five. If you’re constantly having to navigate mentally back and forth like, oh, is this a training day? Is it a non-training day?
If life happens and you plan to train but you don’t, or you don’t plan to train, and then all of a sudden a client cancels and you have time, we’re doing these mental gymnastics back and forth. Is my goal 140 grams of carbs per day and 50 grams of fat, or is it 90 grams of carbs and 65 grams of fat? And it’s a lot of just extra mental energy that you have to expend.
And this becomes even further complicated if you have two different styles of training. Maybe you have a 45-minute hit class and then a 90-minute hypertrophy resistance training workout that are very, very different in the number of calories you’re expending, which warrant two different carbohydrate goals.
So maybe we have 180 gram carb day, 140 and a 90 gram carb day. The point is, we start adding more variables that you have to keep track of. So we’re not really doing a good job of checking that box of simplicity.
So we take a different approach. And this is incredibly valuable for those of you listening who are just incredibly busy. Maybe you’re a mom of three, working full-time and involved in all of your children’s extracurriculars. You don’t have time to be doing this complex calculus and this MyFit Fitness Pal math every single day to keep thinking, oh my gosh, do I need 20 grams of carbs more here, or 17 grams of carbs, less here? That’s a lot of wasted energy.
So what we do to circumnavigate that potential challenge is we have the same portions per-day, every single day of the week. Whether you work out or whether you don’t. And at the end of the day, on your training days, you might have less than what would be considered optimal. But then on your non-training days, you have still that same amount.
When all is said and done, if calories, if we’re going to go simplistic again, were averaged out over a week or over a 30-day period, carbohydrates even too, it all roughly equates to being the same.
But what we avoid here is having to constantly think, change plans, bounce back and forth between a varying number of calories or carbohydrates based on what we do or do not do during the day for exercise. And I can tell you the amount of mental and emotional bandwidth that is conserved with this approach is awesome.
It’s simply incredible. I follow this approach now as well. How my eating habits have evolved, in literally the past six to 12 months alone, is an entirely different story for a separate episode. Maybe I’ll do it.
But I can tell you I have made the switch to eating the same portions whether I am training or not training. And I find it 10 times easier. I actually absolutely love it. So it is now a suggestion I pose to those I work with for this very reason.
So that is where I stand. There is no wrong approach, other than the approach that doesn’t feel right to you. Both of those approaches I just described can absolutely work well.
Let’s continue kind of on this trend here about, there’s a trend of training, non-training. I want to talk in detail about this next question too, which is, how much is too much when it comes to exercise during a diet?
This is great. Because in the health and fitness industry, we’ve all been conditioned to think more is better when it comes to exercise. Because exercise equates to burning calories. We know burning calories helps create a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit is essential for losing weight.
We live in a weight-loss-centric society. So more exercise, more calorie burned, more weight lost, win, win win, seems really simple. But not so fast. We have to remember, sustainability.
We need to factor and filter, excuse me, all of our decisions through the lens of is this sustainable for the long term? If you begin a diet phase and you come out of the gate targeting seven 60-minute workouts per week, you’re going to reach a point of burnout. Especially true if you’re not hydrating well, you’re not sleeping well, you’re not managing your stress well, your nutrition is inconsistent. The list goes on and on.
But I see so many people make this one silly mistake of thinking that more is better when it comes to exercise, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m a big believer that less is more. And this is incredibly important as we become older, and as we begin to take on more responsibilities on our plate.
The truth is, I have worked with hundreds of individuals who work out two to three times per-week, and have had outstanding, more importantly, sustainable success. And that is what I want for you. If you are someone who has the time and who has the love to work out five or six days per-week, by all means, please do it. I still strongly recommend at least one off day.
But where people get into trouble is they think when they start a diet, they need to know they’ve got five resistance training sessions per-week and they want to add in a couple cardio sessions too.
But the reason I am so firm in holding off on or postponing cardio as an additional means to your schedule, to tackle your weight loss goal, is cardio is a tool. And if you start training seven days per-week and we make another reduction in your portions, and your weight is still not budging, well, we don’t really have a good opportunity to continue using cardio as a tool to support your fat loss efforts. Because there’s just simply not enough time in your schedule to add any more, let alone you don’t have the literal nutritional resources to recover from more and more exercise.
So when it comes to how much is too much, I’m going to give you a slightly different answer to this question., And I’m going to give you what I think is the minimum and then I’ll give you a caveat. I think two to three resistance training sessions per-week is absolutely golden. Three, if you can, would it be optimal.
I think walking is the most underrated form of exercise, and you should be walking every single day. Specifically outside as often as you can, at least for 15 minutes. If you have a dog, multiple walks per-day. But everybody should be doing some form of resistance training two to three times per-week. And walking, oh, I want to say every day. I really, really do.
Almost every day if, for whatever reason, you can’t finagle it. As little as 15 minutes, get outside and walk. Walking is so good physically, emotionally, and mentally for all of us.
But aside from that, find your own groove. There’s absolutely room for cardiovascular training. Just have a why behind it. If you’re just doing it for the sake of burning calories, check yourself. There are so many other, more effective things you could be doing with your time. And you don’t need to be doing endless hours on the StairMaster or on the treadmill.
HIT training has, that’s a discussion for a whole different episode as well. It’s a wonderful, effective, and more importantly, efficient way to still tax your cardiovascular system without taxing three hours of your day. But two to three resistance training sessions per week, one to two cardiovascular-specific training sessions per week, and you are golden.
Walks sprinkled in every day, you don’t need any more than that. If you want more than that, you can absolutely have it. But just make sure there’s a clear understanding why there is adequate, adequate, adequate time to recover. And it just feels good to you, and it feels sustainable to you.
And the last topic I want to cover in today’s episode is specific to those of you listening who train first thing in the morning. And I used to do this for years. When I was working at IMG Academy back in 2015 and ’16, I had no choice but to work out first thing in the morning. Because work for me started between 6:30 and seven, and sometimes would go until seven or eight at night.
And then I had to come home and either study for the dietetic exam, or I had to study for grad school. Wow, what a busy time of life. Whew. Anyhoo, let’s get back on track.
With that said, at that time I was up at 3:50 to hit the gym before the workday started. But something I struggled with, and I think you’ll relate if you are someone who works out, first thing in the morning is the second half of the day you feel ravenous. All you can think about is food. And the mistake that you might be making that is really easy to fix is training fasted.
You might have heard that training fasted and burns more fat. We know this is not true. You might have heard training fasted is better for your physique in your weight loss goals. We also know this is not necessarily true. But nonetheless, you did that for whatever reason, but you struggled with consistency and adherence the second half of the day. You felt hungry, all you could do was think about food, cravings gradually increased throughout the day.
And here is why this is happening. The example I like to use as follows. Let’s say the night before you ate dinner at 6:00 PM. You’re up at 5:00 AM for a 6:00 AM workout class. You’re working out 6:00 AM to 7:00 AM. It’s been more than 12 hours since you’ve eaten.
You get home, you get the kids ready, and then you don’t eat till 8:30 ish. It’s been a long time since you have eaten. Your body has utilized all the calories and digested, absorbed and broken down all of the food you ate from dinner the night before. And then to further complicate matters, you just went and expended a couple hundred calories during your workout.
All of this to say the situation that you have created is you have dug yourself a very deep calorie deficit hole. That your body fights very, very hard to climb and dig itself out of the remainder of the day. And that manifests as just simply feeling fucking hungry, and having intense cravings the rest of the day. And one super silly, simple, which may even seem insignificant but I promise you it’s not, strategy to help better mitigate those feelings.
It’s having a small, low-fiber fast digesting carbohydrate before or even during your workout. That small bolus of carbohydrates helps you to climb a little further out of that deep calorie deficit hole you have created or will continue to create during your workout. It will support a better workout, better mood and wellbeing, better recovery, and help shave off some of the intensity of your appetite the second half of the day.
So when I say low-fiber carbohydrate, something that will not upset your stomach, I’m talking about fruit, dried fruit, fig newton’s, chewy bars, goos, gels, pretzels, something digests and sits well. And ultimately, when we talk about portion size, 10 to 20 grams worth of carbohydrates. Something small, something you can eat, it doesn’t make you feel overly tired, overly full, but it gives you a wonderful burst of energy and supports a strong, focused, energized workout. And also helps to support long-term appetite management the rest of the day.
So if you are someone who works out first thing in the morning, you currently work out fasted and you have struggling with evening or afternoon consistency related to hunger pangs and cravings, this simple solution is for you. Start implementing it. Send me a message on Instagram at Paul Salter coaching, and let me know how it’s working out for you.
Thank you so much for listening today. I am so grateful for you. It’s you who made this episode possible. It’s you who has kept me going to have recorded 238-plus episodes the last five years. I’m incredibly grateful for what this experience has taught me, and it would not be possible without you. So thank you for being here.
And if you have not done so already, hey, I love showing up every week for you. It would mean the world to me. If you could take 30 seconds to leave a genuine rating and review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you are listening to today’s episode. That’s all it takes. Less than 30 seconds. It really goes a long way in supporting me and supporting the show.
Well, thank you so much for listening. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day. I will talk To you in next week’s episode. And as always, screw the scale.
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