Don’t Undo Your Workout: How to Eat For Fat Loss

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You push yourself at the gym, fit a workout in at least 5 times a week, and take the stairs at work, yet somehow you just can’t manage to lose the fat around your middle! You’ve heard the old saying “abs are made in the kitchen” and as a nutritionist, I would agree. You can train all you want but if you have bad eating habits, you will fail to lose the extra fat you are working so hard to burn off.  There are 3 common mistakes active people make that keep them from dropping that last pant size. Stop doing these three things and you might actually start to see that progress that you’ve been working so hard for!

First, if fat loss is the goal, you don’t need pre or post workout snacks. The point of working out is to help burn extra calories, forcing your body to use stored calories (in the form of fat) as fuel. Contradictory to what fitness brands and protein companies want you to think, the average gym-goer doesn’t need to be eating extra calories before and after working out. A typical “energy bar” marketed as workout fuel can be 300-400 calories. Top that off with a protein drink right afterwards and you’ve taken in more than your workout likely even burned. This is not a recipe for weight loss. Pre and post workout meals are for athletes, body builders, extreme weightlifters, or people looking to bulk up. For best results, stick to 3-4 meals a day and your workouts will be enough to create a calorie deficit adequate for weight-loss.

Second, never trust the calorie counts on cardio machines, fitness trackers, or workout plans. They are calculated using variables such as; lean body weight, fitness levels, and individual exertion (how high are you lifting your knee on the stair climber?) that undoubtedly differ from yours. It would be impossible to know exactly how many calories you burned doing an activity. Furthermore, most machines and gadgets overestimate calorie expenditure (want to know by how much? Iowa State University just published a study on activity trackers, view the results of individual brands here: This overestimation leads you to think that you need more calories later to replenish the ones you burned. How often do you look at a machine after a workout and think, “hey! 300 calories! I can have a bowl of ice-cream when I get home.” Wrong. Eating back the calories you think you’ve burned (whether you truly did or not) will hinder your weight loss progress.

Lastly, Don’t use food as a reward. If you truly want six pack abs, or are serious about losing those last 10 pounds, you have got to let go of the “I earned this” mindset. Exercise and movement you enjoy should be a part of your life, not an extra burden that you should be rewarded for. If you treat yourself every time you exercise, that means you are getting a dessert/cheat meal/calorie bomb nearly 7 times a week! Instead of thinking “I was active” or “I’ve been good today, therefore I deserve____” think, “I am an active person, exercise is a lifestyle.” Stick to eating healthy, nourishing meals 90% of the time and indulging in those foods you count as treats only 10% of the time. That would mean a treat every 10 meals (which is about once or twice a week). Rewarding yourself with food goes against all of the hours

Use these tips to help fix any mistakes you might be making so that your weight-loss efforts at the gym can start paying off! Here is a filling, plant powered meal that will help you feel energized and ready to hit your next workout hard! The complex carbs in this meal will help fuel your muscles for sustained energy while helping you feel full and satisfied. These oven baked beans are great on everything from tortillas and peppers, to sweet potatoes and avocado! Enjoy!

Oven Baked Black Bean and Quinoa Bowls:

Serves 4-5

For Oven-Baked Black Beans:

  • 1 cup black beans, dry
  • 1 Tbsp Salt
  • cups water
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 slices of red onion
  • Salt to taste

For quinoa Bowls:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetables stock
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • ½ green bell pepper, diced fine

To prepare the beans: In a large bowl add beans, water, and salt. Allow to sit overnight or at least 8 hours. Add soaked beans, broth, garlic and red onion to an oven safe dish with a lid (or cover with foil). Bake at 325 for 75 minutes. Test beans, if still firm, return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes. Beans should absorb most of the liquid. Season with extra salt if desired.

To prepare the bowls: In a cover saucepan, simmer quinoa and spices in the vegetable stock for 15 minutes (remembering to rinse quinoa if you didn’t buy a pre-rinsed variety!). Fluff with a fork and add to individual bowls. Top each bowl with the baked black beans, chopped vegetables, and any other toppings you’d like such as sunflower seeds, sour cream, cilantro, or salsa.

*if you are short on time, canned black beans can be substituted, but the oven baked variety are far tastier!

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