Meal Plans

Healthier Eating Habits: Kickin' the Junk Food

We help minimize the damage to this weight trainer with a sweet tooth.


Hey, Muscle & Fitness : I eat junk—cookies, candy, sugary snacks—and I can’t stop. How can I minimize the effects of these foods?

—Rick E., Grand Rapids, MI

Eating a bunch of junk is far from ideal, but there are a few ways to lessen the negative effects of those types of foods, which we outline here. The best strategy, though, is to kick this habit, or cut way back. And yes, you can.

  1. Eat the junk only immediately after you train. Post-training is a special physiological time during which insulin preferentially shuttles sugar to your muscles over your fat cells. By having your guilty pleasures only right after you train, you’ll maximize the chances that these simple sugars and fast-acting carbs will be used to refuel your depleted muscles.

  2. Keep your carbs low prior to training. We want to take advantage of the post-exercise increase in insulin sensitivity. We’ll further mitigate this effect by somewhat depleting your glycogen stores prior to training. This means no carbs while training. You’ll lose some of the pump (but not much). That’s the price you’ll have to pay for wanting to snack on Skittles while staying lean. You’ll have plenty of carbs stored in your muscles to fuel your training, so don’t worry too much. Having slightly depleted glycogen will create a void that your post-workout snacks can fill.

  3. Keep your total calories in check. Even by focusing your sweets post-workout and depleting your glycogen so there’s room to pack in those extra simple sugars, when you go overboard there aren’t biochemical tricks that can save you. Total calories matter, so keep them in check. If you want to stay lean, then you’ll most likely need to keep your calorie intake to around 13 calories per pound of body weight.