Fuel Right: How to Deal with Common Nutrition Issues

By Desiree Nielsen 

Thursday, May 24th

1. Now that I exercise, I am ravenous! I’ve actually gained weight.

It is not uncommon for some people to experience an increase in appetite as they begin to workout; you are now burning more energy so the body may compensate by driving you to eat more. However, this isn’t the case for everyone…for some, exercise helps moderate appetite and helps them feel more motivated to make healthy choices.

If you have gained weight over the month, consider that you may have added valuable muscle to your frame. Muscle mass is critical for long term health: it supports bone density and long-term weight maintenance! Think back on your food choices; it might be helpful to keep a food journal. Are you eating more than you need to at snack time? Remember that if you’re workouts are only 30 minutes long you won’t need much extra food.

How are your portions of starchier, less filling foods like pasta and bread? Returning to our week one goal, of piling half your plate with vegetables and fruit, can be a potent tool for staying energized, enjoying a filling meal and keeping weight balanced.

2. Getting back into an exercise routine is making me so achy. Can nutrition help?

Eating more colourful plant foods helps to fight inflammation that can hinder recovery. Of course, a few targeted foods can help you ramp up your efforts. The first is ginger; it contains anti-inflammatory gingerols which may help when consumed regularly. Try adding more ginger to cooking or eating pickled or crystalized ginger with a meal.

A cousin to ginger, turmeric is one of the most well-known anti-inflammatory foods. Gold in colour, this earthy spice can be added to soups, stews and smoothies. To really benefit, take at least a ? teaspoon a day, with some healthy fat and black pepper for better absorption. A fun way to get your daily turmeric is in golden milk, a lovely warm drink for the end of a long day.

Another great ally in fighting aches and pains is tart cherry juice; while it isn’t easy to find, not-from-concentrate tart cherry juice or dried tart cherries contain a high concentration of anthocyanin pigments that fight inflammation and may ease joint pain.

3. My gut seems to be getting really irritated during a run... help!

It’s not polite dinner conversation, but jogging can overstimulate the gut and make it difficult to get through a workout. This happens for many reasons: movement physically irritating and jostling the gut; blood flow diversion from the digestive tract and dehydration. If you have a pre-existing digestive issue like irritable bowel syndrome, this might be worse for you.

Here are some ways to help you avoid the upset and enjoy your runs:

  1. Stay really hydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during and after a run.
  2. Consider not eating before a run. Wait two hours post-food to eat.
  3. Watch the fibre content of your pre-run meal. Too much fibre might upset your gut.
  4. Watch caffeine intake. The half-life of caffeine in the body is 6 hours; while it may not stimulate your gut on a sedentary day, the combination of caffeine + run might overdo it.
  5. Consider food sensitivities: if you are sensitive to lactose, fructose or sugar alcohols like xylitol, they may be too much for you on run days. Check your food labels and remove any culprits!


Desiree Nielsen is a registered dietitian based in Vancouver, British Columbia. She runs a nutrition consulting practice with a focus on inflammation, digestion and plant-centred diets. Desiree is the author of a book on anti-inflammatory nutrition called Un-Junk Your Diet: How to shop, cook and eat to fight inflammation and feel better, forever and her new cookbook, Eat More Plants: 100 Anti-inflammatory Plant-centred Recipes for Vibrant Living is slated for release August 2019 with Penguin Canada. She is also the host of The Urban Vegetarian on Gusto TV and co-founder of My Healthy Gut, an innovative and research-backed iOS app for digestive health.