IGTV Expert Chat: Fueling an Active Lifestyle with Andrea Chapin

By Hannah Follman with expert advice from Andrea Chapin
Updated on 17. Mar. 2021

Andrea Chapin is a dietitian and exercise physiologist from San Diego, California. She discusses with Eat Smarter her best ways to fuel an active lifestyle.

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Andrea Chapin is a dietitian and exercise physiologist from San Diego, California. She discusses with Eat Smarter her best ways to fuel an active lifestyle. You can watch our chat here.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you recommend when balancing a healthy diet and exercise? 

The first thing that I really like to tell people and to have people get in the mindset of is that food is fuel on the most basic level. We, of course, eat for many reasons; we eat for taste and social things but on the most basic level, the food that we are putting in our body is our fuel. It is fueling us and giving us energy for everything that we are doing. And of course, exercise is an important part of our lives. Our bodies are built to move. We are made to move and so we should be putting good foods in our body to fuel the movement, whatever that is, that you like to do. 

Are there any specific foods that you recommend eating before and after a workout? Are there any foods that should be avoided?

In general, carbohydrates are what fuel our muscles for movement. Before a workout, you're going to want to have something that has carbohydrates in it. This could be something like a banana or a piece of fruit or some yogurt. Anything with primarily carbohydrates and a little bit of protein is fine. I would stay away from a lot of fat. The reason for that is because fat takes longer to digest. You do not want to eat a high-fat meal and then try to be doing high-intensity or even moderate-intensity exercise. It's going to be very uncomfortable. You're going to feel like you're still trying to digest your Thanksgiving meal. You want to stay away from foods that are really high in fat and also foods that are high in fiber. Generally speaking, fiber is something that needs to be included in our diet. Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and is an important part of our diet and for a healthy gut. Right before a workout, again fiber is slower to digest and can sometimes cause bloating, which is the natural process of it moving through our system. So, it's better to have those high fiber foods later on in the day after the workout is over. 

When is the best time of day to workout?

The best time of day to workout is the time that you'll do it. And the time that you will consistently do it. There have been some studies saying that if you exercise in the morning you're more likely to go. Because at the end of the day, depending on what happened during your day, if you aren’t feeling like it or you are not feeling motivated, there are more chances of not making it to the gym or making it out for a run. Some people say the morning but I really don't think that it matters. I think that what is most important is that you're just getting out there and moving your body. 

Exercise gives you energy. If you're exercising really late at night or right before you're trying to go to bed, that could potentially keep you up. That would be something to think about if you have trouble sleeping But otherwise, any time of day is a good time.

How often should the average person workout on a weekly basis to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Our physical activity guidelines for general health and wellness are to make sure that you're getting 150 minutes of aerobic activity. You want to get your heart rate up, where it's hard to hold a conversation. 150 minutes can be hard to visualize. If you just give yourself 30 minutes a day, five days of the week, and give yourself two days off, that meets 150 minutes a week. I recommend taking your rest days separated. It’s also important that you're doing strength training or resistance training for muscular strength and muscular endurance on at least two days of the week. This could be as simple as bodyweight movement setups, push-ups, or air squats. It doesn't necessarily have to be like weightlifting in a gym, but something that's some sort of resistance training. 

What are your best solutions for unhealthy food cravings? 

It is important to make sure that you are, first of all, eating enough throughout the day and you're eating a good balance of foods. You are getting in your lean protein, your fruits and vegetables with fiber that's also satiating, and you are eating healthy fats and the right amount of carbohydrates for your activity level. A lot of times when people have what they would think of as sugar cravings or just cravings for something, that might just be a message that your body's telling you that you need more fuel. The first thing that I would take a look at is are you eating enough during the day? Are you getting in lean protein especially at breakfast? A lot of people don't eat enough protein in the morning. Most people need between 15 and 30 grams of protein at each meal. I think it's important to honor your hunger, and you can have foods that you enjoy eating. 

It's most important what you're eating most of the time. What you have once in a while is not going to negatively affect your health. One salad does not make somebody healthy just like one ice cream cone does not make you unhealthy. It’s all about patterns over time.


For the full interview, watch it on our Instagram IGTV Series linked here.


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