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Timing Is Everything: When to Eat According to When You Work Out

You want to lose weight, so you try to eat less and exercise: a dieter's one-two punch. But there's a twist. Fine-tuning your meals according to when you work out (morning, noon or night) can help melt pounds faster, says Atlanta-based dietician Christine Rosenbloom, R.D. "The boost of energy you get will help you push yourself harder and burn more calories." Follow her tips for fueling up and slimming down.

By Christine Mattheis

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Woman exercising in morning
By Tom Corbett
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If You Exercise in the Morning

Your body's main source of fuel is glycogen—carbs that have been broken down and stored in your muscles and liver. Your engine never fully shuts off, even during sleep, so overnight you lose nearly all of your stored energy.

Before you put on your sneakers, have a 200- to 300-calorie meal with fruit or whole grains and a small amount of protein.

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If You Exercise on Your Lunch Hour

Save your midday meal until after working out—you'll have enough glycogen left over from breakfast to fuel you. Plus, a new report shows that lunch burns off faster if you wait. In the study, people who exercised for 45 minutes experienced an increase in metabolism that lasted a whopping 14 hours.

Reload with lean protein, and vegetables or whole grains, within 30 minutes of the end of your workout.

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If You Exercise After Dinner

Night owls, beware: loading up at supper will weigh you down in more ways than one. Stuffing yourself is not only fattening, it also causes sluggishness and nausea during your workout.

On days you exercise in the evening, eat more at breakfast and lunch, and prepare a low-fat dinner of fewer than 500 calories.

Originally published in the September 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.

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