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Sheryl Kraft

Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.

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What To Eat After Exercise (It Matters)

Your Wellness

The other day after my workout I headed to a local Starbucks. I was craving a soy latte, something I used to drink every day but cut down to once or twice a week after realizing that it was really cutting into my budget. As I was waiting for my drink, I eyed the pastries in the glass case, fantasizing about what it would be in my next life. I'd go to the gym and sweat it out, followed by a leisurely visit to AnyCoffeeShopUSA and order a large latte to wash down my big, sweet slice of banana chip bread/blueberry scone/or any other gooey, sugar-laden treat. Guilt-free, I'd sit and relax, munch away and revel in the joy of it all.

But then I snapped back into reality when I heard an enthusiastic voice behind me. "I'll have a Venti Vanilla Latte with whipped and a piece of the blueberry coffee cake," she shouted, loud enough for the passing cars to hear. Maybe it was nosiness on my part, or just an instinct I couldn't resist (aren't those the same two things?), but I turned around to see who was ordering that. My fantasy: one of those impossibly skinny-no-matter-what-she-eats women who defy all logical rules of metabolism. The reality: A woman I recognized from the gym. "Hey," she said to me, throwing up her hands without any degree of self-consciousness, "I deserve it, I just worked out!"

So, here's the stark reality of the situation, I wanted to say. But I'm not that type of person; I keep things to myself unless I'm asked for my opinion. Okay… you're all probably asking me at this point (I'll just assume that, since I can't hear you - but fantasize that you are). what is the reality?

You can't eat anything you want just because you've worked out. Not only will it negate the calories you burned, but most of us overestimate how much we really do burn when we work out. It's usually not as much as we think. Sorry. Chances are the calories you take in will be much more than what you burned, making you scratch your head and wonder why, if you are so diligent at the gym, you're gaining weight, anyway.

And here's some more reality (you asked, didn't you?) WHAT you eat after exercise can make a difference on your body's metabolism. You need to replenish your energy sources. Since many of the health benefits of aerobic exercise happen with the most recent exercise session as opposed to the cumulative effect of exercise, a new study says that the nature of these benefits are influenced by the food we eat right after our workout. How? Exercise enhances insulin sensitivity (meaning that it's easier for the body to take up sugar from the blood stream into tissues like muscles, where it can be stored or used as fuel). And this benefit is more likely when you eat foods that are relatively low in carbohydrate content.

Before you sigh over yet another study, here's some good news that came out of this one: you don't have to starve yourself after your gym session to get some real health benefits. Even if you don't lose weight, they say, you're still reaping he benefits of increased insulin sensitivity you get from exercise.

Some expert carb suggestions are oatmeal, brown rice, grains like quinoa or amaranth, and all vegetables and fruits.

I'm off to the gym now...and packing a cheese stick to munch on so I'm not tempted to order that tempting-looking piece of low-fat cake that's calling my name like a flashing neon sign.

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