Fueling Your Fitness Routine with Darby Melnik of Peekskill, NY

Does this sound familiar?

You leave the office for the day with every intention of going to your favorite fitness class or going out for a run or a bike ride—but when you get into the car, your body/brain tells you, “Absolutely not! I am too depleted and exhausted!”

If this happens to you, try this experiment and see how your body responds:

Instead of your usual breakfast of coffee with skim milk and sugar-substitute and a muffin or bagel (or nothing), try having that cup of coffee with whole milk, a little natural sweetener like honey, agave or raw sugar, and a bowl of oatmeal with walnuts, cranberries and a dash of cinnamon. (Or, if you’re allergic to nuts, try some pumpkin, sesame or chia seeds.) At lunchtime, eat a balanced meal that includes high-quality grains, a protein, a vegetable and a “good” fat.

You will be surprised at how much you can eat of the right foods and actually lose weight and increase your fitness performance level.

Better yet, by eating the right foods, you can get fit without feeling hungry and craving everything in sight. Sugary, processed foods and simple carbs actually deplete your body because they contain very few of the nutrients that your body is looking for. Your body will go through foods like that very quickly, because there is nothing in them that it needs.

Feeding a fit body

Understanding your food cravings is pivotal to eating for optimal fitness performance, as well as for keeping up a fitness regimen.

The body is an amazing machine; it knows exactly what it needs to run as efficiently as possible. Too bad the brain gets in the way sometimes! When your bio-computer makes a mistake by craving chocolate, ice cream or chips, it doesn’t mean you lack self-discipline. It just means your body needs fuel. Knowing the kind of fuel your body really wants can actually help you stick to your fitness regimen, lose weight, and not feel hungry in the process.

Cravings are signals to your brain that your body is out of balance—that it’s lacking in some essential nutrients it needs in order to stay alert, think clearly and move freely. For instance, when you start feeling drowsy at 3 p.m. and think, “I need a cup of coffee,” or, “I want something sweet,” chances are that your body is dehydrated, or you’ve deprived it of complex carbohydrates, protein or high-quality fats—the whole foods it needs to keep your energy levels optimal to make it through the day.

So if you’re sleepy at 3 p.m., drink a big glass of water before reaching for that third (or fourth or fifth) cup of coffee—it may just do the trick and wake you up. Or if you’re craving something sweet, eat a piece of fruit. And tomorrow try incorporating into your lunch a whole grain like quinoa or brown rice, some lean protein, or walnuts, dried cranberries and/or avocado added to your salad. You will not only have a delicious meal that will be the envy of all your co-workers, but you may just be amazed at how much energy you will have at the end of the day, and how much better you’ll sleep at night.

Tips for topping off your tank

The next time you have a craving, therefore, don’t think of it as a weakness. Treat it as a loving message from your body. Answer back with one of these responses:

• Have a glass of water and wait 10 minutes.

• Eat a healthier version of what you crave. For example, if you crave sweets, try eating more fruit or sweet root vegetables.

• Consider what’s out of balance in your life. Is there something you need to express, or is something being repressed? What happened to you just before you had this craving?

• Enjoy whole foods. Don’t go for substitutes like skim milk, fat-free, or “100 calorie.” Eating whole foods will actually keep your body balanced and stop your cravings for the quick fix.


Darby Melnik is a certified personal trainer and holistic health and fitness coach, a member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, owner and founder of Options in Fitness LLC, and co-founder of Energy Movement Center Inc. For more information, visit optionsinfitness.com or energymovementcenter.com.

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