I get asked this question all of the time. My experience has been that when a person is trying to lose weight by exercising and “dieting” at the same time, they typically fall into 2 categories. Those that eat too much and those that do not eat enough. There is an inherent problem with both of these options. The person eating too much may not be creating a caloric deficit. The person not eating enough doesn’t have the energy to exercise and will ultimately fall into category 1, or skip their workout altogether.
Do either of those sound like you?
My advice: If you are properly timing your meals and eating every 3 hours, you simply need to time your PLANNED meal or snack around your workout.
What does this mean? It means that you would have eaten that meal or snack whether you exercised or not. For example, if you exercise in the morning, have your breakfast immediately after, if you exercise mid-morning, have your mid-morning snack or lunch immediately after. If you exercise before dinner, eat dinner immediately after…
Why this works: Generally, we tend to over-value the caloric burn of our workouts. Yes, exercise helps tremendously in the overall weight-loss picture, but probably not the for the reasons we think. Stop thinking of your workout as merely a way to burn calories, but instead as a means to creating a super-efficient metabolic machine. In other words, it’s not the caloric burn of your workout that is providing the most benefit and aiding in your weight loss. It is actually the long-term effects of exercise on your body (increase in total oxygen use and efficiency (Vo2max), increase in fat burning enzymes in muscle (mitochondria), and the ability to go harder and longer the next time (increase in glycogen capacity). For the average person, consistency is more important than calories burned.
Bottom line: When it comes to exercise, a properly fueled body is a happy body. When trying to lose weight, re-fuel within 45 minutes of your workout with an already planned snack or meal.