At MS Fitness Pro, we get asked this questions quite often: 

1.    What do I eat before my fitness session at MS Fitness Pro?
2.    Should I eat during a prolonged exercise session?
3.    What should I eat after my fitness session?

New and experienced exercisers alike are always looking for the most rapid results and the easiest way to attain them. In addition to the role of training, most exercise enthusiasts recognize the relevance of proper diet in health and physical fitness goal attainment. This helps explain the extreme proliferation of the supplement industry. Although most supplements have not demonstrated any efficacy during clinical investigations there are strategies that use energy yielding nutrients for optimal returns.

The three energy yielding nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) have varying roles and functions in the diet. For instance, proteins serve over 50,000 different functions in the body and interestingly energy metabolism is not a primary role. Carbohydrates function to maintain the central nervous system and fuel work, while fats serve to spare glucose and fuel low level efforts and resting activities. Due to the role carbohydrates, fats, and proteins serve in exercise and recovery, gaining a thoughtful understanding of each will promote the desired outcomes of the training.


The goal of pre-exercise nutrition is to ensure the participant has adequate energy to perform at optimal capacity during an entire training session or competitive event without premature fatigue or catabolic activity. As a generality for resistance training, pre-exercise nutrition should be geared toward proper blood glucose and amino acid levels and the promotion of protein synthesis and recovery. For prolonged endurance training or competition, optimizing energy storage before the event is often most crucial.

Carbohydrate - Prior to prolonged endurance training, it is recommended to ingest approximately 140g-330g of carbohydrate (CHO) in a meal 3 to 5 hours beforehand to increase glycogen storage and improve performance; particularly if the training occurs after an overnight fast. This quantity would be the rough equivalent to a large plate of pasta. CHO intake 30-60 minutes before exercise can elicit a phenomenon known as reactive hypoglycemia due to high levels of insulin combined with cellular changes associated with exercise metabolism. This causes rapid fatigue shortly after the onset of exercise; primarily caused by simultaneous hyperinsulinemia (from the CHO ingestion) and rapid glucose uptake stimulated by muscular contraction. Some individuals are more prone to this issue than others, so if a participant feels it is necessary to eat within an hour before training feeding strategies should be based off of personal experience and control for both glycemic index and load. The latter often has more potential for problems.

Consuming adequate carbohydrates prior to exercise with an appropriate processing time aids in performance. CHO-loading strategies have also been shown to be effective. Research has indicated CHO-loading over time can increase time to exhaustion in prolonged events by an average of 20%, and reduce times to finish a race by 2%-3%. A moderately aggressive format for CHO-loading would involve a reduction in training over the 6-day period before competition (with complete rest on the last day before) while simultaneously increasing CHO in the diet over the same 6-day period from 50% to 70% of total calories consumed.

Protein – Prior to resistance training, ingestion of a complete protein source and CHO approximately 1 hour before the session has been shown to promote enhanced protein synthesis. Ingesting about 6g of essential amino acids with 35g of CHO appears to be optimal within research studies. This would be roughly the equivalent of an average-sized bagel with cream cheese or a single serving of cereal with a half a cup of milk.

Fat – Focusing on fat intake prior to training does not offer improvements to performance in most cases. Chronic high-fat diets do increase fatty acid utilization during training, but little evidence illustrates that this provides significant performance benefits.

During Exercise

The primary goal of food intake during an exercise session is to maintain optimal blood glucose (approximately 1g/L) to limit central fatigue. Ingestion of calories is primarily beneficial during prolonged activities; shorter-duration, high-intensity training does not usually require caloric intake during the event to maximize performance.

Carbohydrate – During prolonged endurance training (≥45 min) it is recommended to ingest 70g of CHO every hour (1.2g/min) to improve endurance capacity and thwart the progression of hypoglycemia. Potential sources to provide this quantity that could be easily ingested on an hourly basis include:

     1 liter of a well-designed sports drink (e.g. Gatorade)

     600 ml cola drink, 1.5 Power bars

     3 medium bananas

     Approximately 3 energy gels

Protein – Protein ingestion during prolonged endurance or resistance training does not offer significant improvements to performance in most cases. Note that protein use during exercise usually contributes to only around 5% of energy expenditure unless the participant is in a relative state of starvation.

Fat – Fat ingestion during training does not offer significant improvements to performance as commonly ingested fats can only serve as a minimal fuel source due to a slow digestion rate and the transporter by which they enter circulation. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) however (a lipid not commonly found in natural food sources but commonly sold as a supplement with protein) digest very quickly and enter circulation in the same manner as CHOs - which may allow them to contribute as a significant fuel source during exercise.


The primary goal of post-exercise nutrition is to optimize recovery and re-establish energy stores depleted during the training segment or competitive event.

Carbohydrate – CHO intake should be the primary focus after any form of training as CHOs are the chief fuel source for all mechanical work. Intake after prolonged endurance or resistance training should occur immediately after the event, optimally within 45 minutes, as active tissues are particularly receptive to nutrient absorption during that window of time. Immediately following exercise a high glycemic food containing 60 g of CHO should be consumed. In total around 1.0-1.2 g/kg of body weight should be consumed in a few frequent meals (again preferably high-glycemic sources) after prolonged endurance training; the quantity ingested post-resistance training should reflect the total calories expended. This timing and quantity can optimize recovery and re-synthesis of fuel storage. A small quantity of protein in the feeding appears to optimize absorption by acting as a permissive with insulin when at a 3:1 CHO:Pro ratio. The following recommendations can help to provide for optimal daily glycogen maintenance:

     Daily recovery from moderate duration, low intensity training: 5-7 g/kg of BW

     Daily recovery from moderate to heavy endurance training: 7-10 g/kg of BW

     Daily recovery from an extreme training program: 10-12 g/kg of BW

Protein – As previously mentioned, post-exercise protein should be consumed with a CHO source (e.g. chicken and rice) in a 3:1 CHO:Pro ratio for optimal absorption. Research suggests around 20-25g of essential amino acids (Whey protein preferred) should be ingested within 1-3 hours after training to ensure protein synthesis is enhanced. The following recommendations can aid in promoting optimal recovery from intense training: 

 Daily protein intake for endurance athletes: 1.2-1.8 g/kg of BW based on training volume; up to 2.5 g/kg of BW in extreme cases (Tour de France)

 Daily protein intake for strength athletes: 1.6-1.7 g/kg of BW; up to 2.0 g/kg of BW with extreme bodybuilding

Fat – Ingesting a specific quantity of fat intake after training is not a primary concern as CHOs and proteins are the macronutrients used for recovery. Fat is the primary fuel source during resting conditions or low-intensity training (~60% VO2max), but its rate of metabolism or ingestion is not usually the limiting factor to training duration, energy storage, or recovery unless intake is below normal healthy ranges.

Consuming adequate nutrients throughout the day has demonstrated much better results in recovery than most other supplementation. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts who train at higher volumes need to manage their energy yielding nutrients for optimal recovery and energy stores for subsequent bouts of training or competition. An individual engaging in weight loss using lower levels of exercise intensity do not need to completely replace all calories expended but may benefit from smaller quantities of similar ratios for recovery. Whey protein is recommended due to its high absorption rates and high bioavailability. If protein is consumed before sleep, casein is a better choice due to its prolong digestive process. As many athletes are aware low-fat chocolate milk is likely the best choice following exercise as it contains 27 g CHO to 9 g protein at a cost of approximately $0.99.

- National Council On Strength and Fitness (NCSF)

HCG and Very Low Calorie Diet Problems

Much like many scams, the hCG injection and very low calorie diet (VLCD) has cycled back into mainstream media and is being advertised as the cure for obesity. Advertisements suggest as much as a pound a day can be lost using this “medical” treatment, drawing the attention of many individuals wishing to lose weight. The injections are comprised of low-dose human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) and when combined with a severe diet, functions as a popular treatment for obesity, despite a lack of evidence of its effectiveness. hCG is secreted by the placenta during early pregnancy to maintain corpus luteum function and stimulate placental progesterone production. It is found in the urine and blood serum of pregnant women and is commonly used as an indicator of pregnancy.

In the seventies, researchers investigated the use of hCG combined with severe diet restrictions in the treatment of obesity. In a follow-up study to the Asper-Harper investigation (1973), which suggested that the combination of a 500 kcal diet and hCG had a statistically significant benefit over the diet and placebo combination; Stein et al (1976) created a duplication of the methodology using 51 women in a 32-day prospective, randomized, double-blind comparison of hCG versus placebo. Each subject was given the same diet (the one prescribed in the Asher-Harper study). Researchers performed laboratory analysis at the time of the start and at the end of the study. 80% of the subjects completed the study receiving 28 injections. Researchers found no statistically significant difference in the means of the two groups in number of injections received, weight loss, percent of weight loss, hip and waist circumference, weight loss per injections, or in hunger ratings. Investigators concluded that hCG does not appear to enhance the effectiveness of a very low calorie diet for weight reduction.

In a similar article published in the Western Journal of Medicine (1977), Greenway also used a double-blind randomized trial using injections of hCG or placebo along with a calorie restricted diet. Forty obese women, all with body mass index greater than 30 kg/m2 were placed on the same 500 kcal diet and each received daily intramuscular injections of saline or hCG, 6 days a week for a period of 6 weeks. According to Greenway, weight loss was identical between the two groups, and there was no evidence for differential effects on hunger, mood, or localized body measurements. The author concluded placebo injections appeared to be as effective as hCG in the treatment of obesity.

Shetty and Kalkhoff published an article in the Archives of Internal Medicine (1977) that further added to the evidence that hCG was ineffective at increasing weight loss. The investigation analyzed six hospitalized obese women over a thirty day period. Each was placed on 500 calorie a day diet and given an injection of hCG intramuscularly each day for 30 consecutive days. A control group of five similar obese women received injections of saline only and consumed identical diets for the same period. Authors found that the mean weight loss in the hCG-treated group was nearly identical to that achieved by the women who were given the placebo. Additional regional assessments of fat were also consistent between groups. Once again the authors concluded that “hCG had no effect on the chemical and hormonal parameters measured and offers no advantage over calorie restriction in promoting weight loss.”

In 1995, Lijesen et al conducted a meta-analysis of research that investigated the use of hCG and diet restriction on weight loss, fat loss, fat redistribution and hunger reduction. They found eight controlled and 16 uncontrolled trials in a review of databases. The studies were then scored and ranked based on quality of methodology. They found that 12 trials met the minimum criteria for research validity using their 100 point scoring system. Of the twelve, only one concluded that hCG may be an effective adjunct to weight loss (Asper-Harper) whereas all the others concluded the opposite. In a concluding statement published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology the researchers stated “We conclude that there is no scientific evidence that HCG is effective in the treatment of obesity; it does not bring about weight-loss of fat-redistribution, nor does it reduce hunger or induce a feeling of well-being.”

The recent resurgence of the hCG injections also now come in drop form that can be placed under the tongue. These programs are actually worse than the early practices as now people can get the product online without any medical supervision or assurance of type or purity. Simply typing in hCG and weight loss in one’s browser will call up numerous advertisements offering a miracle hope to the ignorant consumer. The current popularity was likely sparked by a recent book written by an infomercial marketer (and convicted criminal). So now not only is it ineffective but likely even more dangerous. Toffle, in an article published in the West Virginia Journal of Medicine (2011), titled “There they go again” – hCG and weight loss” suggests that serious negative outcome can come from non-pharmaceutical concoctions and cites products from foreign countries in particular have the potential for contamination. Toffle referenced Fineberg and Hiatt in the article with a seemingly perfect summation:

"What is unacceptable is to persist in demonstrably ineffective practices either because we fail to collect systematic information about the effects of our actions or because we establish and respond to inappropriate incentives. Systematic information has been obtained and has shown lack of evidence for the benefit of this therapy. The alternative explanation for the persistence and promotion of this treatment is unacceptable.”

Since 1975, the FDA has said that hCG is not a weight loss drug and the FTC has gone after the infomercial marketers suggesting its efficacy. Based on this information and numerous other evaluations, consumers should avoid hCG injections for the purpose of weight loss. Personal trainers should become familiar with the misleading products and educate clients to avoid those that have not demonstrated proper safety and efficacy in repeated clinical trials. Likewise Personal Trainers should never recommend a VLCD as it is virtually impossible to meet a human’s daily nutritional needs for energy nutrients with less than 500 calories per day and the diet will most likely result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies. It is important to recognize many internet sites will look reputable but publish misleading and incorrect information. Self-appointed experts, particularly those who suggest medical practitioners “don’t know anything” and those sites that use articles to sell products should be avoided. It is important to let people know that the FDA does not regulate supplements and therefore will not ensure any hCG product is safe, free of contaminants, or in the correct concentration. Websites selling hCG have no regulations related to their product sales.

MS FitnessPro, LLC

Holiday Weight Management Strategies

            The holiday season brings about many emotions and actually can be a time for heightened stress. The pressure to please, managing schedule arrangements, and travel are all too demanding; but seeing loved ones enjoying festive environments and letting loose on the buffet, add back in the reason people enjoy the holidays. Following the approximate month and a half between Thanksgiving and the Bowl games it becomes time to pay back for all the caloric exploits. Luckily a January resolution initiative has been created to solve the problem. The easy answer to prevent this redundant outcome is to follow a calorie controlled diet, exercise most days and engage in plenty of physical activity. This though does not seem to be as easy in implementation as it is in theory. The bombardment of calories, pressures to “drink and be merry”, and all but guaranteed fitness routine “disarray” ensure some payback is owed in January.

            Although health-trend magazines and the related will suggest 7-10 pounds of weight gain is to be expected, prospective studies have demonstrated for most people it is more like 2-4 pounds. Not a giant hurdle to overcome, but the literature suggests most people will take at least a pound or two with them on life’s journey, equating to potentially 20 lbs of weight game over two decades. Researchers suggest that for sedentary populations this is a significant contributing factor to adult obesity. Since caloric balance is the problem it makes sense to address this issue in particular. Although fitness magazines suggest remedies like “creating physically active holiday environments”, for most people the recommendation does not comply with interests, habits, or holiday dress codes. Therefore reducing caloric intake along with a planned regimen seems to make the most sense. Committing to a weekly caloric expenditure total in the gym and reducing calories in the kitchen can add up to a weight benign holiday season. Requiring training minimums by your clients ensures they will not fall too far back from their goals and helps keep income steady during the heightened cancellation period.

            Part of the management of clients comes from educating them to avoid the common pitfalls that affect us all during the holiday period. Below are some well established suggestions as well as some dietary strategies that may help. Try some of these exchanges when cooking and schedule an appropriate level of physical activity or training; this way the holidays should not make too big a dent in your overall fitness.

Holiday Weight Management Strategies:

Serve healthier low calorie appetizers like vegetable trays with low calorie dips first, people tend to fill-up on available munchies.

Serve or take smaller portions allowing for seconds – people tend to be lazy.

Serve on smaller dishes so that portion control is better managed.

Do not sit or stand close to the hors d'oeuvre tray or the bowl of mixed nuts – location and boredom eating can add significant calories.

Offer calorie free beverages – Crystal Lite, Ocean Spray and others offer a variety of calorie free beverage mixes.


Exchange Recommendations:

Recipe:                               Substitute:
1 Whole Egg                         2 Egg Whites

Sour Cream                          
Low Fat Plain Yogurt or Low Fat Sour Cream

Skim or 1% Milk

Oil for baking products         
Use Apple Souce

Ice Cream                           
Frozen Yogurt

Heavy Cream                      
2 Tabl. flour whisked into 2 cups skim milk

Whipped Cream                   Chilled evaporated skim milk or low fat whipped products

Low fat cheese

Egg Nog                              
Low fat egg nog or 4 bananas, 1-1/2 cups skim milk or
                                                 soymilk, 1-1/2 cups plain nonfat yogurt

Beer, cider, Bailey's & Kahlua 
Dry wine, Bloody Mary or Spirits w/diet mixer

Roasted Turkey Breast         
Remove the skin

Green Bean Caserole           
Fresh Green Beans w/chucks of potatoes instead of     
                                            cream  soup.  Top with almonds instead of fried onion 

Mashed Potato whole milk/butter   Use skim milk, chicken broth, garlic

Pumpkin Pie Crustless           
Evaporated milk instead of heavy cream, top cakes with  
                                             fruit instead of frosting

Turkey Gravy                        Cranberry Sauce with a sugar substitute

Cheesecake                           Angel Food cake with fresh fruit

Stuffing                                  Replace half the meat with dried fruits

Cranberry sauce                   
Rinse the jelly off canned cranberries and sweeten with

Dark Turkey meat                 White Turkey meat

Creamy dip                           Hummus, low fat/fat-free sour cream and yogurts

Pasta salads                          Use whole grain pasta and cut vegetables

*National Council on Strength and Fitness
I would like to thank my family for making my achievements possible and for always being there for me when I needed them most.  Over the past few years, many people have asked me about my ability to keep working towards my goals by never ever giving up.  The answer lies within my family.  By providing me with a strong Christian upbringing and with the world's best big sister, my parents have always set a great example for me to follow.  On April 24, 2010 a deadly tornado ravaged four Mississippi counties, claiming 10 lives and damaged over 700 homes.  Many families lost their entire home and life possessions.  Among those affected are my parents, Billy and Gwen Thomas (retirement age), who had diligently worked hard and saved up enough money to build their dream home, only to have it all blown away less than three years later in a matter of seconds.  The courage, strength, and faith that they have displayed since this day has been an inspiration and demonstrates the strength and willpower that I hope to someday achieve.

    Tammy Thomas



    June 2011
    May 2011
    November 2010


    Boot Camp
    Ms Fitness Pro
    Personal Trainer