Answers to Common Nutrition Questions

Get your nutrition questions answered here! This blog post is part 2 of a live interview with Anna Lutz, RD, of Lutz, Alexander and Associates Nutrition Therapy in Raleigh, NC that answered nutrition-related questions from the public. We talked about fad diets and more.

For Part 1, head over here. (more on fad diets).

How do you really know how many calories you’re supposed to eat? Or how do you know if you’re overeating?

As a dietitian, we are trained to calculate people’s calories. “But, I really believe in the wisdom of the body,” Anna says. And for some people, this takes a lot of work. If you’ve been dieting for awhile, it’s going to take time to get familiar with listening to your body. But again, counting calories takes us further away from listening to our body.

For some people, a meal plan might be helpful to guide people back towards listening to their internal cues.

Things to pay attention to:

  • Hunger and fullness
  • After eating, when are you hungry again?
  • How is your energy?
  • Sleep (blood sugar dropping will wake us up in the middle of the night)

For overeating, if you’re always getting to a 10 on a hunger/fullness scale of 1-10, you might be eating more than you need. This would mean you likely wouldn’t be hungry for 5-6 hours. Most of the time, it’s a good goal to stay within a 3-7 on the hunger/fullness scale to set yourself up for health. (However, we shouldn’t expect this of ourselves all the time, as it will change based on events and other life circumstances).

Good Pre-workout Snacks

Combine carbohydrates and protein to fuel your workouts:

A picture of peanut butter spread on a tortilla with fresh blueberries and strawberries.
Photo by Alison LaFortune on Unsplash
  • Chocolate milk
  • Half a peanut butter jelly sandwich
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Yogurt
  • Protein bar
  • Trail mix
  • Banana and peanut butter

Consider how your digestion works and how the food is going to feel in your stomach. Liquids may be better because they are more easily digestible.

What can I do to lower my cholesterol?

Most of what determines our cholesterol levels is our genetics. That doesn’t mean we throw out nutrition information. Other factors that affect cholesterol are our cortisol (stress) levels and the food we eat.

Moving our body will help lower cholesterol, as well as high-fiber foods and food with healthy fats (fish, avocado, nuts, olive oil, fruits and vegetables). We also need to make sure we avoid the blame game around high levels of cholesterol, since it’s highly determined by genetics.

Is weight fluctuation normal?

Yes. 2-3 pounds across the day is normal due to hydration, food, and hormones.

Anna does see more weight fluctuation in people who are restricting/dieting. Our bodies want to stay the same, so a lot of fluctuation would be something to get curious about and possibly seek a professional for some guidance.

What are healthy ways to increase metabolism?

Metabolism is what our bodies are always doing- keeping our body temperature regulated, organ functions, etc. Building muscle mass is a way to increase metabolism. However, we need to make sure we are fueling our bodies enough in order to build muscle.

Not eating enough will decrease our metabolism, so this is yet again another reason to move away from restriction.

Are there harmful effects from pre-workout supplements?

Like any supplements, it’s good to be cautious because they are not regulated by the FDA. We don’t know what is truly in them. There is research that shows that carbohydrates, caffeine, and creatine can all affect performance in a positive way. However, may of these supplements don’t contain carbohydrates.

We know all workouts need to be fueled to be effective. So, a snack remains very important. Creatine seems to be safe, but can be taken at any time, not just in pre-workout to have benefits. For most people, caffeine is safe. Someone who is experiencing anxiety, stomach distress, or a racing heart may want to investigate if caffeine is causing a problem. More concerning to me, are the other ingredients in these supplements that are less studied and we don’t know the effect of long term use. I’d rather people eat a balanced snack pre-workout and if they really want to, a caffeinated drink.