When it comes to food and fitness trends, the information we get online, on television and from our family and friends can be confusing and sometimes conflicting. Are low-carb diets healthy? Is there such a thing as the “fat-burning” zone? Does eating at night make us gain weight?
To clear up the confusion, Well Community recently attended a community event, held at Lincoln Square’s Sulzer Regional Library, where three Swedish Covenant Hospital experts — family medicine physician Dr. Susan Wilcoski, registered dietitian Julia Socke, and Galter LifeCenter fitness specialist Leslie Mras — weighed in on some of the most popular health questions circulating today.
Below are some of the questions asked by the audience and addressed by Dr. Wilcoski, Socke and Mras at the event. The answers are a combination of their responses.
Does eating at night cause weight gain?
No matter when you eat, if you eat more calories than your body needs or than what you expend, you’ll gain weight. That said, boredom eating is common at night and can become a habit.
Is it true that you shouldn’t strength train if you want to lose weight because you’ll get bulky?
While strength training does build lean muscle mass, it also helps decrease body fat percentage, increases your metabolism (which helps you burn more calories faster) and reduces your risk for diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, back pain and arthritis.
Should I avoid carbohydrates if I want to lose weight?
Carbohydrates are essential for good health. But just like protein and fats, carbohydrates have calories and too many can cause weight gain. Carbohydrates do break down quicker than fats and proteins though, so in order to feel full for longer, eat meals with a balance of all three.
Will I burn more fat if I exercise in the lower-intensity, “fat-burning” zone?
For fat and weight loss, what matters most is the difference between the calories you expend and the calories you consume. Yes, more fat is used at lower intensity than higher intensity exercise, but you’ll burn far more calories at the higher-intensity pace —which means the total amount of fat used is greater. Try a mix of high, medium and low-intensity workouts for best results.
Are 100-calorie packets of cookies, chips and crackers really a healthy, quick snack?
No. Although the calorie count in these snacks is low, there are many more vitamin- and nutrient-rich foods with the same number of calories that are better for snacking. Try any of these 100-calorie snacks instead: 2 cups of fresh strawberries, 1 cup of fresh blueberries, a handful (about 13) almonds, half an apple with 2 teaspoons peanut butter, or 4 to 6 ounces of low-fat or fat-free yogurt.
Is eating smaller meals every few hours better than three large meals a day?
Yes. Eating smaller balanced meals every few hours encourages a healthy metabolism and can prevent overeating because you’re not feeling starved by the time you eat. If you are not desperately hungry, you will have more patience to make healthier food choices.
Are the most effective types of exercise the most expensive and time-consuming?
No. You can get a great workout for free, on your own time, indoors or outside. Walking is a good start. It is simple, effective and can easily be worked into even the busiest daily routine. Try parking farther from your destination, using the stairs and walking to a colleague’s office rather than emailing or calling Also try doing simple exercises like sit-ups while watching television.
If money is a primary concern, look into park district programs and facilities, rather than private health clubs, sign-up for a one-time personal training session to learn techniques and routines you can use on your own, and always test out a new piece of equipment at a gym before you buy it.
What does the phrase “exercise as medicine” really mean?
Exercise can improve both physical and mental health and is being recommended by many health advocates, including the American College of Sports Medicine and doctors at Swedish Covenant Hospital, as part of a general wellness and disease treatment plan. Exercise not only reduces your risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes, but also helps maintain bone mass and prevent osteoporosis, improve joint stability, increase range of motion and maintain flexibility, promote better sleep, improve your mood and reduce anxiety and depression.
Is small group training in the gym effective?
Yes. Small group sessions are a great way to get individual attention at a more affordable price than one-on-one personal training. Working out with a small group and a certified personal trainer also provides motivation, fun and support.