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Why Exercising Doesn't Mean You Can Eat Whatever You Want (Sorry!)

You Can Eat Whatever You Want

You hear it all the time:

“Well I burned a lot of calories running today, so I can eat as much of that as I want”


“It doesn’t matter what I eat because I have a hard workout coming up and I’ll burn it all off.” 

These sentiments are especially common among endurance athletes, like long distance runners and cyclists, who in the peak of marathon or race training are covering mileage that has them in the triple digits and has them burning calories by the thousands.  

But don’t be so fast to assume that intense or long duration exercise necessarily gives you a free pass to eat whatever food you like. 

While exercise may take care of the calorie side of things, eating food that is bad for you (think high cholesterol, saturated fat etc.) is still bad for you - even if you burn it off quickly. 

Plaque, which builds up in the heart due to poor food choices, and then the resultant build up of cholesterol doesn’t discriminate: athletes simply aren’t affected by it as quickly because their heart is in better condition to push through the stress and continue working properly. 

But these issues still exist for athletes and non-athletes alike.

Whether you are exercising often, or not at all, the same, back to basics healthy living tips apply and are important to adhere to.  Follow these tips to keep you on track: 

  • Eat mostly plants and avoid meat when possible.  All types of meat and fish have the same amount of cholesterol, so regardless of the type of protein you are choosing, you are sill increasing your risk of heart complications.
  • Eat whole foods: from the ground, from the tree or from under the sea (seaweed is an amazingly nutrient dense food!).
  • Stop worrying about protein intake.  It is very difficult to actually become deficient in protein and protein is found in plants as well.  Eat lots of these and you’ll get the intake that you need.
  • Keep up with your healthy fats.  Choose essential fats, including Omega 3 and Omega 6 sources like Flaxseed Oil and Evening Primrose Oil, as well as other healthy fats such as those from Olive Oil and avocado
  • Drink more water.  There is always a benefit to having more water, and rarely to we actually get enough water
  • Monitor your portion sizes and listen to your body.  Start to become aware of the cues your body gives you when it is full or when it is hungry and abide by them.  Doing this will serve to leave you more satiated and more satisfied from the food you are eating. 

Eating healthy food is an easy and important component of a healthy lifestyle and if you are doing the exercise, you need to do the work to eat properly as well.  Doing so not only ensures long-term health, but allows you to perform at your best and feel your best.  And that’s just the best!

By: Laura Peill, RHN, BScH –  Viand Nutrition

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