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Eating your way to healthy living


IN THE SECOND instalment of this two-part series, Stuart Thomas, a graduate of the University of Ottawa’s human kinetics program, is answering my top questions about nutrition. Good news: My hypothesis that chocolate milk is both nutritious AND delicious has been confirmed.

Is carbo-loading really necessary before an intense workout?
“No, it certainly isn’t necessary,” Thomas says.
Unless you’re a long-distance athlete using carbo-loading as a way to increase glycogen stores, and thus energy, skip the giant plates of pasta and bread.

When shopping for protein powder, what should I look for?
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by an aisle full of giant buckets of protein labelled with 16-syllable ingredient names. Thomas recommends you keep two things in mind when comparing protein powders: The variety of types of proteins contained in the powder and the nutrition facts.
“If you think of your digestive tract like a multi-lane highway, each lane can only accept certain types of cars—proteins, or more specifically, amino acids,” he explains. “If all you’re eating is sedans (eg. Leucine), there will be a traffic jam in one lane and no traffic in the rest.”
Thomas warns some powders have elevated levels of cholesterol and saturated and trans fats. Whatever brand you choose, remember “supplements are designed to supplement a diet, not replace it. So don’t get in the habit of skipping meals.”

What kind of post-workout snack do you suggest?
Thomas recommends grabbing a snack within an hour of working out. The ideal snack has a mix of both carbs and protein, such as an apple with peanut butter. Chocolate milk, my personal favourite, gets the thumbs up from Thomas because “it has the proteins needed for muscle growth, while also providing the required carbs to get your blood sugar back up.”

What are your recommendations for people who want to lose weight?
Avoid quick fixes like diet pills, warns Thomas. Advertisements for diet pills recommend taking one pill a day, exercising, and eating well, but as Thomas says, “If you take the pill out of that equation, you have a recipe for success already.”
If you’re trying to lose weight, create goals for yourself based on performance, not pounds. You may set yourself up for failure if your goal is to lose X number of pounds in X number of weeks. Instead, aim to hit the gym X number of times and run a total of X minutes on the treadmill each time. That is a far better recipe for success than diet pill manufacturers could ever cook up.

—Sarah Horlick