I play 2 hours of tennis from 8-10pm several times per week. After tennis, I come home and eat a large amount of food (at least 1,000 calories) and then go to sleep shortly thereafter. Am I still getting the full weight loss benefits of the workout despite the timing of my last meal? Or, would it be better to eat before playing tennis and then have a much smaller meal after, right before going to bed?
Wow, what a great question! The short answer to your question is no, you are currently not setting up your body ideally for weight loss by eating a massive meal when you get home after tennis. By changing your eating strategies you are going to help increase the number of calories your body actually burns after your workout. And here’s why.
In order for your body to lose weight you’ve got to expend more energy than you consume, which makes sense right? Meaning you’ve got to eat less food than your body needs, to keep your limbs moving. If you eat more than your body needs, the excess will be stored as fat.
Of course every “body” uses, processes, and utilizes energy from food differently. Your metabolism is influenced by genetics, lifestyle, overall health, body composition, weight, height, and environment. Some of these factors are controllable and others aren’t.
And what we do know is that your body needs the macronutrients which include protein, complex carbohydrates and good fats, in order to maximize your calories burned when training. So your body has the tools to build lean muscle and burn fat.
And your best baseline for eating here is to munch away before, during, and after your tennis workout. And because you’re exerting extra energy for 2 hours, it’s important to replenish your energy stores before you run them dry. Doing this is going to help you keep your energy up and persuade your body to maximize the calories and fat burned.
What you want to avoid is a dip or low spot in your energy levels, where your blood sugar levels drop and your internal systems become stressed and slow down. So providing regular and consistent food is the best route to losing weight and feeling great.
Every wonder why your body seems to challenge you when you’re busting your butt trying to drop a few pounds? Well, in black and white it just doesn’t trust you, and who can blame it? It’s tells you to feed it by rumbling your tummy and you ignore it. You skip breakfast and starve yourself all day to pig out on unhealthy foods, instead of eating all the essential vitamins and minerals your body craves to defend against harmful free radicals and function optimally. The “dieting” roller coaster we ride habitually forces our body not to trust us. Okay, I’m done with the lecture for all of us, me included!
So if you want your body to burn fat fast and keep it off, you’ve got to feed it the right foods, in the right amounts, regularly. And seeing as you are doing a fantastic amount of tennis, you need to consume fuel before, some during and a little after, just as you suggested.
Getting some protein for muscle building and fat burning, and some complex carbohydrates for longer lasting energy in what you should have before your tennis. You might like to try a handful of nuts, a banana, and half of a whole grain bagel. Or maybe a couple hard-boiled eggs, a small yogurt and a piece of whole grain toast with peanut butter. This will give your body the fast and long lasting energy it needs to perform.
And it won’t hurt to have a low-calorie protein rich food bar or shake halfway through your tennis, with lots of water. This is just going to help replenish your depleted energy stores so you can finish stronger.
That said, after you are done exercising, your body is still working. It’s still building muscle and burning fat and you want to keep this process going. And by eating another protein rich and high carb snack you’ll do just that. A bowl of oatmeal with fresh berries and a glass of milk is great at this time. Another great choice would be a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread and an apple.
You need to eat to lose weight and build muscle while making sure you don’t overdo it. Still giving your body enough food is the key to maximizing your overall energy burning. Also take note that you need to listen to your body. If you’re running out of steam before your tennis is done, then you likely need to eat a little more. So don’t be afraid to have an extra half of a peanut butter sandwich or a banana. It won’t take you long to just “know” how much you need to eat and when. Now don’t you think it’s time for you to go play a little tennis?