Eating Before Exercise

For as long as I can remember — from the first time I set foot in a gym actually — I’ve been listening to folks debate the question: Should I eat before I exercise?

It’s interesting that back in the days of “stay hungry” and “pumping iron”, when the big Meccas of bodybuilding like World Gym and Gold’s Gym in Venice, California were home to such legendary bodybuilders as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbo, everybody trained on an empty stomach. Bodybuilders of that era believed that you were more likely to mobilize your fat stores for fuel if you didn’t have to burn off a whole bunch of carbs that you just scarfed down for breakfast. We now know that they were mostly incorrect.

A number of new research studies finally shine some light on the matter. Researchers found that eating before exercising has several beneficial effects, including preventing weight gain and maintaining insulin sensitivity.  Proponents point out that you need energy for working out — energy that comes from carbohydrates.

How much should you eat before working out? It depends.  If you’re interested in performing better — like if you’re training for an event — you might want to eat a regular meal first. However, if you are looking to trim down and lose weight, then a piece of fruit, ideally a banana, is a good idea.

February is Heart Disease Awareness Month!

Women account for 52.6 percent of the total heart disease deaths. They also tend to have a worse prognosis with heart disease once they come to the hospital.

Women also may experience different symptoms of heart disease than men. But for both genders, chest pressure is the most common symptom of heart disease. Women, however, may experience shortness of breath, jaw pain, headaches, nausea, fatigue, and stomach upset –which we call atypical symptoms of heart disease — more commonly than men.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2009, an estimated 785,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack, and about 470,000 will have a recurrent attack. About every 25 seconds, an American will have a coronary event, and about one every minute will die from one. Heart disease is often perceived as an “older woman’s disease,” and it is the leading cause of death among women aged 65 years and older. However, heart disease is the third leading cause of death among women aged 25–44 years and the second leading cause of death among women aged 45–64 years.

Why Does a Woman’s Risk of Heart Disease Rise With Age?

Menopause is a normal stage in a woman’s life; it comprises any of the changes a woman experiences either before or after she stops menstruating. As menopause nears, the ovaries gradually produce less estrogen (a female hormone), causing changes in the menstrual cycle and other physical changes.

The most common symptoms of menopause are hot flashes, night sweats, emotional changes, and changes in the vagina (such as dryness).

Menopause usually occurs naturally in women between ages 45 and 55. However, loss of estrogen can also occur if the ovaries are removed during surgery (such as during a total hysterectomy) or if a woman goes through early menopause.

Why Is Heart Disease Associated With Menopause?

The loss of natural estrogen as women age may contribute to the higher risks of heart disease seen after menopause. Other factors that may play a role in postmenopausal risks of heart disease include:

  • Changes in the walls of the blood vessels, making it more likely for plaque and blood clots to form.
  • Changes in the level of fats in the blood (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol increases and HDL, or “good” cholesterol decreases).
  • Increases in fibrinogen levels (a substance in the blood that helps the blood to clot). Increased levels of blood fibrinogen are related to heart disease and stroke since it makes it more likely for blood clots to form, narrowing the arteries and reducing blood flow to the heart.

Keep in mind that there are other factors associated with women suffering heart disease more than men. Many women are now working, rather then staying home raising the children. In addition to work, the women’s responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and helping the kids with the homework still exist after she is done at work. With the responsibilities of work and home, this leaves women tired and not getting the rest they need.

On the other end of the spectrum, imagine being a single mother, raising the children, working one or more jobs, cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry and being the ‘head of the household.’

Furthermore, add in being over 40, with hormone changes occurring, leads to the onset of heart disease more quickly, than for a man.