National Nutrition Month: Eat Well to Be Well


March is here, which in Arizona means swimming season is right around the corner. It also happens to be National Nutrition Month®! In our profession, I hear a lot from clients about what they “used to be able to do” and “used to look like” before they got hurt. Many people undergoing physical therapy services tend to gain weight, due to their pain limiting movement and exercise, as well as the emotional tendency to eat when we are suffering. Here are a few helpful tips that may help you in your journey to look and feel better.

Cardio Versus Cutting Calories
The two most effective ways to lose weight are to add in cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, biking, or running, or to decrease your caloric intake. There are benefits to choosing one over the other. For example, if you have significant arthritis in your knees making walking painful, initially cutting calories to lose weight may be the smarter and more comfortable choice. Alternatively, if you have been dieting for a while and are already at a low caloric intake, adding in cardio may be your only option. However, both may be used in combination to meet your goal.

Fruit Intake
We need fruits and vegetables in our diet to ensure that we are getting a full dose of all the essential minerals and vitamins our bodies need to perform optimally. However, one of the biggest problems I see from patients is the excessive carbohydrate intake. When many start to diet, they first change to eating “healthy” foods and snacks. Typically, this is in the form of adding fruits to their meals. While fruits may be a better choice than potato chips, 1 small apple has 21g carbohydrates (77 calories), and 1 medium banana has 27g carbohydrates (105 calories). Adding 1 piece of fruit to each meal and snack can equate to an additional 125g of carbs, or 500 calories over the course of the day. That is the same as 8 slices of wheat bread. Remember, there is a difference between eating for your health, and eating for your physique.

Timing of Meals
One of the most common myths I hear is that you cannot eat after 8 p.m. or all the food will be stored as fat. The second most common is that you need to eat multiple small meals a day to speed up your metabolism. Both could not be further from the truth. Eating at night will only cause the scale to give you a higher number in the morning because your body was not in a fasting phase for as long as when you stop eating by 6 or 7 p.m. In fact, recent studies have shown that fat loss is achieved in caloric deficit, regardless if a majority of calories were consumed at night or spread evenly throughout the day4. When consuming the same number of calories over the course of the day, be it between two large meals or six small meals, there is no difference in metabolic rate in overweight or obese individuals1,2. Furthermore, this was also found to be true in healthy weight individuals when consuming two versus seven meals per day3. Increasing meal frequency does not affect metabolic rate when caloric consumption is the same. Eat the number of meals you need when it works for your schedule to meet your nutritional needs each day without stressing about the timing.

Alcohol Consumption
This one is short. Don’t forget that your nightcap not only has carbohydrates, but it also has alcohol. Alcohol is a toxin to the body, which means that when you consume it, your body puts all stomach contents needing to be digested on hold while it rids your body of the alcohol. Each gram of alcohol requires 9 calories of energy to break down and rid it from your body. Your “light” 3.2% beer adds nearly 80-125 calories for every 12oz, and a glass of red wine can add between 125-150 calories for a 5oz pour. Keep that in mind while going through your physical therapy services.

At Foothills, our goal is to get you back to the activities you love. If you’re looking for more tips on how to live a healthy life, contact a Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy clinic near you!

  1. Taylor, M. A., & Garrow, J. S. (2001). Compared with nibbling, neither gorging nor a morning fast affect short-term energy balance in obese patients in a chamber calorimeter. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders: Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity,25(4), 519-528.
  2. Garrow, J. S., Durrant, M., Blaza, S., Wilkins, D., Royston, P., & Sunkin, S. (1981). The effect of meal frequency and protein concentration on the composition of the weight lost by obese subjects. British Journal of Nutrition,45(01), 5-15.
  3. Verboeket-Van De Venne, W. P., Westerterp, K. R., & Kester, A. D. (1993). Effect of the pattern of food intake on human energy metabolism. British Journal of Nutrition, 70(01), 103-115.
  4. Sofer, S., et al., Greater weight loss and hormonal changes after 6 months diet with carbohydrates eaten mostly at dinner. Obesity (Silver Spring), 2011. 19(10): p. 2006-14.

Susan Williams

PT, DPT | Metro Center Location