Healthy Bodies
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • July 2013
Written by  Karmen Nenahlo

Expert answers to your health and wellness questions — Cheat meals, weight belts and eating before a workout

Question: What are your thoughts on cheat meals, especially for those that are diligent with their daily eating?

Answer: It’s an interesting question, but the answer really depends on how you define diligent. For those that follow consistent patterns of clean eating — meaning they follow a regimented diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats — I have no problem with a cheat meal here and there. Again, it just comes down to frequency. I happen to think that having a cheat meal or splurging a bit is just part of living a healthy and happy life. But you also have to realize that it doesn’t take much to throw you off track if your focus is on attaining or maintaining a healthy weight. Therefore, it may be wise to increase your physical activity for a day or two before and after the meal. This will help to compensate for the calorie load and may make you more at ease with your decision. And be mindful of your other meals as well, so that your one cheat meal doesn’t turn into two or three. Enjoy!

Question: I see a bunch of guys wearing weight belts in the gym. Should I be wearing one too?

Answer: Generally speaking, there’s no need to wear a weight belt when strength training. This practice became quite popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and now you can find plenty of people that simply won’t lift without them. Don’t be one of them! In actuality, lifting consistently with a weight belt can weaken your lower back and abdominal muscles over time, so most of us should be leaving it at home. There are certain instances when a weight belt may be useful however, including maximal lifts for things like squats, dead lifts and overhead presses. But when you move on to exercises like rowing, bench presses and other more standard lifts, take it off and toss it aside!

Question: What should I eat or drink if I only have an hour before I work out?

Answer: What you eat before a practice or game should be largely determined by timing and personal preference. Generally speaking, a large meal takes 4-5 hours to digest, a smaller meal takes 2-3 hours and a large snack takes 1-2 hours. If you don’t digest food well enough prior to an activity, you can end up with a stomachache and cramping. This often occurs because blood (which plays a key role in digestion) is shunted to your arms and legs during activity, thereby slowing down the digestive process. Therefore, if you only have an hour to fuel yourself, it would probably be best to stick with a liquid carbohydrate/protein shake. Liquids are processed faster than solid foods and will provide the energy you need in a shorter time frame. Keep in mind, we’re not talking about those ice cream-based shakes from fast food restaurants. We’re talking about a sports nutrition shake that is designed for active individuals and athletes. If you want something lighter, a traditional sports drink would be a viable option as well. There are a number of products on the market in each category, so do some taste-testing to see which ones work best for you. 

Karmen Nenahlo is with Anytime Fitness, the world’s largest 24/7 co-ed fitness franchise. For more information, visit

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