Real talk: It could take weeks or months to see the metabolic effects of exercise on the scale, and even then, building muscle, which is denser than body fat, could lead to weight gain. "Do what you like because it’s good for you," Dr. Seltzer says, noting the way exercise is awesome for your heart, mental health, and more—and that not all measure of progress can be seen on the scale.

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After your last training session (Wednesday, in this example, two full days before Saturday’s event), eat two to three grams of carbs per pound of body weight for the rest of the day. If you train at night and it’s hard to eat enough carbs before bed, you can split up the total and eat the rest of the carbs on Thursday night. Insulin sensitivity remains high for 48 hours post- workout, so glycogen will still go to your muscles. Otherwise, on Thursday, go back on the diet prescribed in Step 2.

In a way, moderate-intensity physical activity is that "magic pill" a lot of people are looking for, because the health benefits go beyond keeping your waistline trim: Not only can it reduce your risk of cancer, stroke, diabetes and heart attacks, but studies have shown that physical activity can significantly improve the moods of patients with major depressive disorders.
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